2016 has kicked off with great news for pandas.
Back in October, Greenpeace East Asia revealed that China’s iconic giant pandas were under threat from rampant illegal logging in the world’s largest panda habitat.
Following a two-year-long investigation, we uncovered that a shocking 3,200 acres of pristine natural forest in the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries had been clear cut to make way for plantations of profitable timber, under the guise of ‘forest reconstruction’.
Aerial image of clearcut logging in the natural forest of Fengtongzhai nature reserve, in the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We knew this had to stop.
We demanded that the government close the loophole which leaves China’s most famous and beloved animals at risk of destruction and protect the beautiful place they inhabit.
And that’s exactly what has happened.
Just days after we exposed the illegal logging, the Sichuan Forestry Bureau took action and launched their own investigation.
The results have just come in:
23 cases were filed and 22 officials held accountable.
A new regulation on ‘forest reconstruction’ – the policy that allowed the illegal logging to go on unchecked – will be issued, ensuring that the loophole is closed and can’t be exploited.
The Sichuan Forestry Bureau is now developing a strategy to make sure commercial deforestation doesn’t impact the giant panda’s habitat.
This is amazing news. But the fight isn’t over.
China’s giant pandas are protected for now, but the problem isn’t contained in Sichuan. We previously discovered the same illegal logging happening in Zhejiang and Yunnan Provinces. As it stands, a third of China’s natural forests are at risk of the same fate.
The Sichuan authorities have responded and put a stop to the reckless destruction of precious, natural forest. Now it’s time for the rest of the country to follow suit.
Thanks to all of you for sharing the news and making this happen. We’ll be keeping up the pressure, to make this a victory for all of China’s wildlife, not just the giant panda.
Yi Lan is Deputy Head of Greenpeace East Asia’s Forests and Oceans Campaign
This story originally appeared on Greenpeace East Asia.