The Chinese government just approved one of the world’s largest protected areas, creating a giant panda reserve three times as big as Yellowstone National Park, and spanning three Chinese provinces. The reserve will connect approximately 67 existing panda reserves on six separated mountain ranges in Gansu, Shaanxi and Sichuan provinces, totaling 10,476 square miles (27,134 sq km).
China state news agency Xinhua reported that merging the panda reserves will hopefully allow the pandas to mate with a larger population, creating a more diverse gene pool and higher numbers overall.
The merged park will aim to clear up confusing jurisdictional issues that occur when pandas cross provincial boundaries and allow for better accountability of the pandas.
The main threat to the 1,864 wild pandas is habitat loss from human activity, natural disasters, and climate change. China is hoping to increase the panda population to 2,000 by 2025, though the animals are notoriously difficult to breed.
In order to allow the pandas to roam freely on the new reserve, China will be relocating 170,000 people in Sichuan province.
Hou Rong, director of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding hailed the new reserve as “a haven for biodiversity and provide protection for the whole ecological system.” In addition to the pandas, 8,000 other endangered animal and plants will benefit from the new national park.