Imagen por Diego Azubel/EPA
Logging in China's Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries has wiped out 3,200 acres of the iconic bear's habitat despite government efforts to crack down on the practice, the environmental group Greenpeace reported Wednesday.An area equivalent to more than 1,800 soccer fields has been lost to clear-cutting in the sanctuaries, a chain of protected forest in the highlands of south-central China. Wednesday's report by Greenpeace East Asia found that weak forestry regulations allow the UNESCO World Heritage Site to be exploited for profit, "endangering local wildlife and global treasures" like the giant panda.
"Large areas of primary natural forest are a basic condition for the survival and reproduction of giant pandas in the wild," the report states. "Deforestation further reduces and fragments the already limited natural habitat of the species, and is a direct threat to their feeding and migration zone. It increases the risk that their small and dispersed populations become increasingly cut off, limiting their chances to make contact with each other and reproduce."China has attempted to rein in the practice, most recently in 2012. But its regulations contain a loophole that allows for the replacement of natural forests with plantations — a practice that a Chinese official quoted in the report said is being abused."In terms of forest conservation, the most pressing and most serious problem facing China now is deforestation of natural forest in the name of reconstruction of low-function forest," Zhou Lijiang, deputy chief engineer at the Sichuan Province Forestry Investigation, told Greenpeace. The group is calling on China to close that loophole and beef up protection of the sanctuaries before it expands its forest protection program in 2017.Fewer than 1,900 pandas remain in the wild, most of them in Sichuan province, China's government reported in February. That population has rebounded sharply since 2003, but more than 200 bears in isolated groups were considered to be at high risk.Related: China Outlaws the Eating of Tiger Penis, Rhino Horn, and Other Endangered Animal ProductsFollow Matt Smith on Twitter: @mattsmithatl