BEIJING, May 19 (Xinhua) -- Conservation International (CI), a Washington D.C.-based eco-protection organization, will continue its giant panda conservation efforts in southwest China despite the pending completion of its "Kung Fu Panda" project in June, its chairman said on Tuesday.
¡¡¡¡Peter Seligmann, the CI Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), told Xinhua that CI will continue to work on encouraging local farmers to take part in panda protection and build larger corridors to connect different areas of land inhabited by pandas.
Zhang Li, technical director of CI China Program, said CI will work with international partners, including McDonald's and United Technologies Corporation (UTC), to provide technical and financial support for reforestation and land use management, and the reconstruction of 18 panda corridors.
Previous statistics show that there were about 1,590 pandas living in the wild around the country, mostly in Sichuan and the northwestern provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu.
After the 8.0-magnitude quake on last May 12, the forest coverage in quake-hit areas in Sichuan dropped by nearly 2 percentage points to 42.6 percent while 11.6 percent of the corridors was cut off, said Luo Zengbin, deputy head of the Sichuan Provincial Forestry Department in December.
CI identified 18 important panda corridors in Sichuan and wrote them into the local government's plan for panda habitat reconstruction.
The organization last year launched a "Kung Fu Panda" project together with DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc., which filmed the worldwide animated blockbuster, right after the quake to develop a strategy for increasing conservation efforts for the panda in Sichuan.
DreamWorks and its CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg invested one million dollars on the project, Seligmann said.
"The concept of DreamWorks is to launch an one-year project to get a sense of how many wild pandas are there and begin training local communities," he said.
The organization has sent teams of investigators to conduct a census on panda distribution. They have surveyed big habitats and "isolated land" where small populations of giant pandas live and trained local nature reserves staff members about monitoring skills since last March.
After the quake, the group assessed the Wolong nature reserve, provided material and financial support to protected areas, and helped to modify the "panda habitat recovery and reconstruction planning after the earthquake" made by the forestry department.
The findings in the project will be released in June, said Seligmann, but the efforts would continue.
"Our hope was to continue the project over time. When we originally designed the project, it was a five-year initiative," he said.
CI's mission is to conserve the Earth's living heritage, the global biodiversity, and to demonstrate that human societies can live harmoniously with nature.
CI hopes to continue to strengthen conservation projects in China, Seligmann said.
"The Chinese government is more clear about the importance of nature conservation now. It's a good opportunity for CI and our partners to establish China as a world environmental leader," he said.