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Back | Programme Area: Environment, Sustainable Development and Social Change

Conservation and Social Development: A Study Based on an Assessment of Wolong and Other Panda Reserves in China



The paper argues that panda reserves provide a particularly auspicious setting for integrating the objectives of conservation with social development. The parks are thinly populated: their total population amounts to less than 5,000 people, mostly of Tibetan origin. In Wolong reserve, as in other protected areas which host panda populations, the pandas live and roam at elevations different from those utilized by human inhabitants for agriculture and livestock. There is therefore little or no competition for resources between pandas and people. However, people continue to be regarded as a threat to the viability of pandas. In some areas, people have been removed and forcibly resettled elsewhere. In Wolong, a resettlement plan was elaborated — but it met with such resistance from local populations that the apartment buildings constructed for them remain empty. The establishment of the reserve has led to restrictions on livestock-grazing, collection of forest products and hunting. The construction of roads and installation of electric power have benefitted local people, but few resources have been devoted to improving housing, health care and sanitation for them. Nor have they benefitted from employment opportunities which have arisen as a result of infrastructural development and steadily growing tourism.

The author states that there are enormous opportunities for enhancing the livelihood security and living standards of the local inhabitants while preserving and improving the natural habitat. These objectives can be achieved with a small proportion of the resources allocated to panda reserves. These opportunities lie in yak farming, pig breeding, collection of medicinal plants, trading, catering and lodging tourists, handicrafts production and processing of minor forest produce. The paper suggests the need for a more flexible approach to conservation and resource use, with the dual objective of improving people’s living conditions at the local level and conserving forests and wildlife through their sustainable use and management. In other words, social development objectives must receive as much priority as the preservation of pandas.
  • Publication and ordering details
  • Pub. Date: 1 Dec 1994
    Pub. Place: Geneva
    ISSN: 1012-6511
    From: UNRISD