Massive Deforestation
Threatens Giant Panda
Endangered Species At Risk From Demise Of Bamboo

By Michael McCarthy
Environment Editor
The Independent - UK
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 their ranges.
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 plant species."
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.
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



This Site Served by TheHostPros