- Bad news for the giant panda. Many types of bamboo, the
animal's staple food and one of the world's most important plant families,
are in trouble because of massive deforestation, a study reports today.
- As many as half of the 1,200 woody bamboo species may
be in danger of extinction because of the continuing destruction of their
forest habitats, says the report. Large numbers of vulnerable animals that
depend almost entirely on bamboo for food and shelter - which include pandas,
lemurs and mountain gorillas - face an even greater struggle for survival.
- The study, by the United Nations' Cambridge-based World
Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) and the International Network for
Bamboo and Rattan, is the most comprehensive yet on the subject, using
novel analyses to combine data on the distributions of bamboo species and
existing forest cover.
- The study found that many types of bamboo have tiny amounts
of forest remaining within their native ranges. About 250 woody bamboo
species have less than 2,000 square kilometres of forest remaining within
- Bamboos are large, woody grasses. Their life cycle -
individuals of each species flower once, simultaneously every 20 to 100
years, then die - makes them especially vulnerable to rapid deforestation
that is restricting the areas in which they can survive.
- They not only provide habitats for large numbers of other
species, but are used for human purposes. International trade in bamboo
products, mostly from cultivated sources, is worth more than $2bn annually.
- Klaus Toepfer, the executive director of the United Nations
Environment Programme (Unep), the WCMC's parent body, said: "Trade
in these plants is worth as much as bananas or American beef. Yet until
now, their status and condition have been largely ignored with many species
taken for granted. This new report highlights how vital it now is for the
international community to take a far greater interest in these extraordinary
- Millions of people depend on wild bamboos for food, construction
material, furniture and even musical instruments. The commercial potential
of many wild species of bamboo has yet to be evaluated, but among the internationally
traded products derived from bamboos are edible bamboo shoots, furniture
and paper. Bamboo is used in the making of acupuncture needles, flooring,
firewood and paper.
- The report identifies endangered species whose fates
are linked with the demise of bamboos. There are such animals in every
region in which bamboos grow. In Asia these include the red panda, Himalayan
black bear and the giant panda. About 15 species of birds live almost exclusively
in bamboo. And in Africa, mountain gorillas depend on bamboo for food.
- ANIMALS IN DANGER
- Giant panda
- The giant panda (Ailuropda melanoleuca) is dependent
on bamboo, its only food. Only 600 exist in the wild. Half of their bamboo
forests have disappeared since 1974.
- Lesser bamboo bat
- The lesser bamboo bat (Tylonycteris pachypus) is the
world's smallest bat (some say it is second smallest), and roosts in hollow
bamboo. Found in Philippines and India.
- Mountain gorilla
- Gorilla beringei beringei inhabits bamboo forests of
the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and south-west Uganda. Shoots
can be 90 per cent of the diet.
- Golden bamboo lemur
- The golden bamboo lemur (Hapalemur aureus) of Madagascar
is rare and critically endangered. Thought to have a total population of
only 200 to 400 individuals.
- © 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd http://news.independent.co.uk/world/environment/story.jsp?story=520092