World Heritage Recognition for China’s Panda Habitat

August 2006

The U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recently announced the protection of nearly 1 million hectares of panda habitat in the Mountains of Southwest China biodiversity hotspot.

The Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, home to more than 30 percent of the world's Endangered giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), are among the newest areas named as World Heritage sites by UNESCO.

World Heritage sites are protected by a multilateral convention whose 132 nation signatories promise to “ensure that effective and active measures are taken for the protection, conservation, and presentation of the cultural and natural heritage” of the areas.

Signatories to the convention nominate sites with important cultural and natural heritage within their boundaries, and begin a formal application process which can sometimes span many years.

Support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) helped the Eco-Security Task Force of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development bring together a range of government authorities and biodiversity experts to create a scientifically based nomination for the sanctuaries.

The task force worked toward ensuring that stakeholders’ concerns were addressed in a workable management plan for the site, which brought under one regime the sanctuaries’ seven nature reserves and nine scenic areas, all of which fall within different administrative jurisdictions.

CEPF supported the project under its strategic direction in the hotspot of supporting site-related projects led by civil society to mitigate key threats to natural areas and species populations.

Support from CEPF has also helped IUCN-The World Conservation Union develop a comprehensive China World Heritage Biodiversity Program to build national capacity in identifying, nominating, and effectively managing World Heritage natural sites in China. Four of the five sites are in the Mountains of Southwest China Hotspot.

“We are now working to expand the program to cover all of China's natural and mixed World Heritage sites and contribute more to the preparation of new nominations,” said IUCN China Program Coordinator Seth Cook.

The sanctuaries, home to other Endangered animals such as the red panda (Ailurus fulgens) and the snow leopard (Uncia uncia), as well as the Vulnerable clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), are among the botanically richest of any region in the world outside the tropical rain forests.

For more information, contact:

- , China program coordinator, IUCN
- , CEPF coordinator, Conservation International-China Program

Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Centre Web site.