Course:FRST370/Projects/Collaborative management of the Giant Panda's habitat in Wolong National Nature Reserve, China

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File:Wolong SAR Emblem.png
Logo for Wolong National Nature Reserve

This case study focuses on one of the National Nature Reserve areas in China – Wolong. It will examine the relationships among different stakeholders as well as their relationships with the environment, natural resources, including 245 types of endangered species and 57 types of animals. Wolong National Nature Reserve is located at the southwest of Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan province. The establishment and regulation of the area involved a number of stakeholders, including the national government of China, the provincial government, local people, farmers, funders, local businesses, and tourists, etc. Since the governments attached great importance to the region and plan, this area had an organized and promising start in 1963. However, the involvement of local people has been limited. Local farmers and residents had a significant negative impact on local land cover changes, which caused degradation of the panda’s habitat. Hence, more official involvement of local people with future decision making and maintenance responsibilities, as well as developing new policies are necessary steps to reach their goal of “establishing a harmonious relationship between human and nature.”[1]


Map of Wolong National Nature Reserve.png


Wolong National Nature Reserve is located southwest of Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Perfecture in Sichuan province, China. The climate in Wolong provides favorable conditions for the growth of bamboo. Hence, it is a suitable place for panda reproduction and survival.

Timeline and History[2]

  • 1963: Wolong National Nature Reserve established with a total area of 20,000 hectares.
  • 1975: Approved by the State Council, Wolong National Nature Reserve area was expanded to 200,000 hectares and became under the direct jurisdiction of the Ministry of Forestry. The reserve was redistricted into two parts: experimental area and core area. The plan included relocating the farmers in Wolong to outside of the experimental area or the reserve area, but due to socioeconomic problems and other aspects, this plan was not executed.
  • 1981: The reserve collaborated with the World Wildlife Fund to establish China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda.
  • 1986: Started launching the project of converting cultivated lands back into forests.
  • 1997: Wolong Nature Reserve authorities realized previous planning was not suitable for its development anymore, hence, they divided the reserve into three functional areas: core area, buffer zone, and experimental area.
  • 2008: The Wenchuan earthquake happened in May 12 had a devastating impact to the reserve area. Some pandas were found to be injured.

National Context

It is the third largest national nature reserve and one of the earliest comprehensive national protected areas in China. Wolong National Nature Reserve has unique geographical conditions and complex geomorphic types. It contains mountains, rivers, and forests, and caves, etc. This special and unique characteristics made it home to more than 2600 animal species, which include about 56 kinds of rare and endangered animals such as the giant panda, golden monkey, snow leopards, and takin, etc. It also owns more than 4,000 plant species, and 24 of them are listed as rare and endangered species. Due to its location, the area is also rich in Tibetan and Qiang ethnic cultures.[3]

Tenure arrangements

The Property is wholly owned by the government of the People’s Republic of China. A series of provincial and national level laws and regulations protect the ownership. The laws and regulations include: Regulations on Wild Plant Protection of the People 's Republic of China (1997): Forest Law of the People 's Republic of China (1998), Environmental Protection Law of the People's Republic of China (2002), and Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Nature Reserves (2002), etc.

In addition, according to Measures for the Administration of Land in Nature Reserves (1995), the lands within any reserves in China shall be state-owned or collectively-owned. State land users and collective land owners should apply to the land administrative departments of the local people's governments at or above the county level for land registration and land certificates.[4]

Administrative arrangements[5]

When Wolong Nature Reserve was first established in 1963, it was only under the administration of Wenchuan county.

After enlarging the area of the reserve in 1975, it firstly became under direct leadership by Sichuan province, and later by the Ministry of Forestry.

From 1978 to 1981, in order to strengthen the protection of resources, the Reserve Administration set up five resource protection divisions. These division stations are located at the entrances and exits of the reserve, the local residence areas, and areas where important natural resources are distributed.

Approved by the State Council in 1983, Wolong Special Administrative Region was established to merge work with Wolong Nature Reserve Administration. Their aim is to better protect the endangered species as well as the interests of the members from two communities (Gengda and Wolong townships) located inside the reserve. With the additional help from Wolong Public Security Bureau and Forest Armed Police Squadron, unlawful felling, poaching, and killing endangered species including the giant panda were strictly monitored and punished. 

Affected Stakeholders

Local residents

There are more than 4,000 residents that were living in the reserve area before it was established. Most of them are illiterates who knows nothing about environmental protection, biodiversity, and endangered species. They believe in making a living in one's given circumstances, such as the forests and animals around them. Therefore, they hunted animals for food; they fell trees for constructions and fire without regulations. On the other hand, after the reserve was established, the restricted felling and hunting made local people’s lives harder, and they became more dependent on the government for economics and employment opportunities such as tourism. [6]Their main objectives are to continue supporting themselves with the natural resources around them, increasing their livelihood by having more employment opportunities inside or around the reserve. Since they have no money and ability to move outside the reserve, they are highly dependent on the land and the area. Therefore, they have a very high interest but a low power or influence.


Farmers are the most important stakeholder that results in fragmentation of the reserve. However, they have been relying on farming to meet their needs for food and make income. The establishment of the reserve has greatly reduced their land use for farming. The conflict between agricultural use and natural resource protection has been a major issue inside the reserve. The farmers wish to continue farming with enough space, therefore, they have a high interest but low power to decide where and how much area they could farm.

Interested Outside Stakeholders

National government of China

The State Council holds the ultimate power on approving, declining, and deciding proposals about policies and regulations of the reserve from provincial governments. They have low interest but a high power.

Provincial governments

They have a closer relationship with the reserve to regulate, manage, and monitor it. And they seek economic and employment opportunities for the local people inside and near to the reserve. They have moderate interest with a relatively high power.


They helped to establish the reserve and donated for post-disaster reconstructions. They also continue to provide money for research, breeding, and protection of pandas and other animals in the area. They have moderate interest with low power.


Tourism is a major income source for local residents, research centers, and local governments. Tourists visit the reserve to watch and learn about the environment, endangered animals and plant species. They could also become volunteers to help inside the reserve. They have low power and low interest about the policies and regulations of the reserve as well as the livelihood of people living there.

Reserve Authorities

They establish surveys and assessments about the natural resources, animal and plant species, and livelihood and job opportunities of local residence. They have moderate interest with low power.


Businesses such as tourism companies and timber companies, etc. seek economic opportunities inside the reserve to make profit. Heavy timber harvest by the timber companies and businesses led to the destruction of panda’s habitat. As a result, the number of wild animals including pandas had a sharp decline. However, tourism was an important income source for local people before 2008, and they have been highly dependent on tourism-related businesses. [7]They have a high interest on the natural resources in the area that could bring profits but a low interest on the harmful environmental impacts and the animal habitats inside the reserve. They also have a low power on policy and decision making.


Giant Panda Eating Bamboos

Aims and Intentions

The primary aim and intention of establishing Wolong Nature Reserve is to create “a world-class biodiversity conservation base; a model of harmony between human and nature".[1] It is also aimed to protect the natural habitat of giant pandas and other endangered rare species.

The reserve and the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda within the reserve are aimed to be used for reproduction, breeding, scientific studies, and wildness training of giant pandas.


  • Starting from 1986, Wolong has started the project of returning farmland to forests (bamboo). It is financed by the World Food and Agriculture Organization. Each year, a portion of farmlands were converted into forests.[8]
  • The reserve has successfully protected and saved the habitat for endangered species from unlawful felling and hunting by outsiders.
  • Tourism in the reserve has a successful educational purpose for visitors about the endangered species, the environment, and biodiversity.[9]
  • The establishment of the reserve and research center of the endangered animal species has helped to save and breed their offspring, which successfully increased the rate of their survival.
  • The reserve has also succeeded in promoting economics in the area and increasing income for local residents by introducing opportunities from outside the reserve such as ecotourism.[10]


  • The initial failure of relocating local residents due to socioeconomic issues.
  • The failure of completely stopping the fragmentation and degradation of the habitat due to agriculture, timber harvesting, road construction, and fuel-wood collection.[11][12]
  • Not paying enough attention to the education, economic opportunities, and income of local residents.
  • The neglect of senior residents by their family members while they are working and engaging in tourism activities and jobs.[13]
  • Failure of protecting the wildlife habitat and endangered species such as the giant pandas during the earthquake in 2008. [14]

Critical Issues and Conflicts

  • The conflict between wildlife habitat protection and farming is a significant issue inside the reserve. Farming resulted in changes of soil conditions which influence the vegetation growth on the land. And this in turn causes negative impacts on the livelihood and health conditions for the animal species inside the reserve. In addition, forests and vegetated lands converted into farmlands caused fragmentation inside the reserve which reduced mobile range and resource availability for pandas and other endangered animals. This issue is mainly addressed by redistricting land areas into different functional areas, including farmlands, residential areas, experimental area, buffer zones, and core zones (where no human activities is allowed). The planning and decision making of land use areas are done by Ministry of Forestry and Reserve Authorities.[15][11]
  • Another critical issue experienced by Wolong National Nature Reserve is the wide-spread blossom and death of the arrow bamboo. The arrow bamboo is the staple food bamboo for the giant panda. This event threatened the survival of more than 100 giant pandas in the reserve. The World Wildlife Fund released news about the event and its catastrophic impact. The news quickly attracted and raised attention of Chinese central governments. Chinese national governments, local governments, Ministry of Forestry, Reserve Authorities, foundations, and people around the world worked together to address this issue. Firstly, the reserve introduced and cultivated new bamboo species to increase the variety and availability of edible bamboos for the giant pandas in the future. Secondly, the reserve established semi-wild farms to take in and rescue hungry and ill pandas. Thirdly, the reserve guided pandas to nearby areas that have fresh bamboo forests by using sugarcane, lamb and pork meat as attractions.[16]


The interested stakeholders such as the national and provincial governments have much more power in the governing and decision-making processes. Because they are the ultimate decision makers that decide the changes or regulations of the reserve. They establish and execute laws, policies, and penalties for the protection of the reserve. They plan and decide the distribution of different functional areas inside the reserve, such as buffer zone, residential areas, experimental areas, and core zone.

Other interested stakeholders such as business companies, Reserve Authorities, and foundations may have high interests to either make profit out of the reserve or study and better protect the species inside it. But they have little or no power on policy or decision making and regulation of the area. Nevertheless, the environmental assessments and surveys performed by the Reserve Authorities would influence and have some impact on policy and decision makings by the governments and authority groups.

The affected stakeholders such as local residents and farmers have little influence or power in the reserve. Although they have been living in the area through generations, they had neither influence on the establishment of the reserve, nor power on decision-making and regulation processes. However, they show a positive attitude towards the cooperation with the governments, and they wish to be more actively engaged in the activities or jobs inside the reserve.[17]


  1. Provincial governments and the Reserve Authorities should enhance the integrity of monitoring and management processes or system inside the reserve.
  2. The Reserve Authorities and local governments should improve or establish new tourism management plans to better monitor the impacts. Maximize tourism benefit but minimize tourism impacts.
  3. Local and provincial governments could seek help from foundations to enhance and improve local people’s living conditions. Upgrade, renew, or implement new infrastructures in the reserve.
  4. China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda, businesses, and foundations should work closely together with local government agencies to establish new technologies to better monitor the living habitat of pandas and other endangered species.
  5. Reserve Authorities, the Ministry of Forestry, and provincial governments should closely observe and prevent any unlawful activities in the region.
  6. The Reserve Authorities, local governments, and national governments should promote and maximize engagement with local residence and farmers to establish better agricultural management rules and policies; provide enough space for farmers and local people to cultivate without any intervention, damage, or destruction to the wildlife habitat.
  7. Local governments and businesses should seek economic opportunities inside and near the reserve to provide sufficient employment opportunities for local residents inside the reserve. This should be done with a rigorous assessment on the impacts of the projects or activities that the businesses wish to implement.
  8. Local governments and businesses should provide and increase opportunities for senior residents inside the reserve to participate and engage in the activities and tourism.
  9. Reserve Authorities, Ministry of Forestry, and local governments should decrease the likelihood of damage to the animals as well as the habitat during future disasters by marking out the most dangerous areas and other emergency measures.
  10. Ministry of Forestry and Reserve Authorities should help to increase the livelihood for pandas and other endangered animal species by closely monitoring and regulating the number and growth of trees and bamboo, air and water pollution, as well as soil conditions.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Conservation Objectives". 四川卧龙国家级自然保护区.
  2. "保护区发展历程 Development History of the Reserve". 四川卧龙国家级自然保护区.
  3. "保护区概况 Overview of the Reserve". 四川卧龙国家级自然保护区.
  4. "自然保护区土地权属管理确认(边界确权)Confirmation of the Management of Land Ownership in Nature Reserves". Sohu.
  5. "卧龙自然保护区资源保护的历史及现状1 History and Current Situation of Resource Protection in Wolong Nature Reserve 1". 四川卧龙国家级自然保护区.
  6. He, Guangming (2008). "Distribution of Economic Benefits from Ecotourism: A Case Study of Wolong Nature Reserve for Giant Pandas in China". Environmental Management. 42: 1017–1025.
  7. Liu, Shuwen (5 March 2018). "Livelihood Benefits from Post-Earthquake Nature-Based Tourism Development: A Survey of Local Residents in Rural China". Sustainability. 10: 9–10.
  8. "卧龙自然保护区资源保护的历史及现状5 History and Current Situation of Resource Protection in Wolong Nature Reserve 5". 四川卧龙国家级自然保护区.
  9. Liu, Wei (2012). "Drivers and Socioeconomic Impacts of Tourism Participation in Protected Areas". PLoS One. 17: e35420.
  10. Yang, Liu (2008). "The Economic Impact of Tourism on Local Residents in Wolong Nature Reserve". Biodiversity Science. 16: 68–74.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Liu, Jianguo (2004). "Human Impacts on Land Cover and Panda Habitat in Wolong Nature Reserve". People and the Environment: 241–263.
  12. Liu, Jianguo (2001). "Ecological Degradation in Protected Areas: The Case of Wolong Nature Reserve for Giant Pandas". Science. 292: 98–101.
  13. Sun, Junfeng (2018). "Status of and Suggestions for Senior Citizens' Participation in Ethnic Tourism: A Case Study of Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan". Journal of Landscape Research. 10: 57–60.
  14. Bai, Wenke (2018). "Long-term distribution and habitat changes of protected wildlife: giant pandas in Wolong Nature Reserve, China". Environmental Science and Pollution Research. 25: 11407.
  15. Carter, Neil H. (2014). "Coupled Human and Natural Systems Approach to Wildlife Research and Conservation". Ecology and Society. 19: 43.
  16. "卧龙自然保护区资源保护的历史及现状2 History and Current Situation of Resource Protection in Wolong Nature Reserve 2". 四川卧龙国家级自然保护区.
  17. Xu, Jianying (2006). "Local People's Perceptions as Decision Support for Protected Area Management in Wolong Biosphere Reserve, China". Journal of Environmental Management. 78: 362–372.

Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
This conservation resource was created by Mengjia Liang.