The wind blew hard while the rain heavily poured and slowly turned into snow. We were at an altitude of 2,800m on Qinling Mountain ridge, Xingongling Mountain and Luban village, the summer habitat of giant pandas. As the weather becomes colder and food becomes scarce the pandas to their winter habitat in lower altitudes. We saw why they migrate as we passed by gray and kozen arrow bamboo.

We observed and tracked the immigration of a pair of pandas, a panda mother named Churr Tian and her one year and two months old daughter Hu Niu. They spent haifa day along Sanxianfeng ridge en route to their winter habitat at Huodiba, I,600m above sea level, also the location of their birthplace.

Only a few months ago, they were traveling in the opposite direction and spent almost one week traversing from 1,600 to 2,600min elevation.Fresh wind break bamboo grows abundantly in the panda winter habitat. Churr Tian and her daughter will mainly feed on this rare and endemic species throughout the following eight months.

Oak, poplag birch, pine and Huashan pine are mostly distributed in Ms location, with bamboo serving as the undergrowth. In the winter habitat, wind break bamboo is the dominant bamboo Species, 95% more than any other bamboo species in he bamboo forest. O rest we Fargesia qinlingensis and bambusa vulgaris. Wind break bamboo grows primarily in ecosystems that receive large amounts of sunlift and covers an area of80Om up to 2,OOOm in elevation. Ih Foping Nature Reserve the winter habitat accounts for 80% of the entire area and the wind break bamboo forest accounts for 6596 of the pandas winter habitat. In this fertile land wind break bamboo can grow up to 6m high, with aground diameter of up to 4cm. Based on a biomass survey of bamboo in Qinling Mountains, botanists suggest that 10 times the current number of pandas in Qinling Mountains would not have to worry about food for the next 50 years.

In the giant panda winter habitat, bamboo distribution is highly United only grows between 2,000-1,200m and the giant panda’s territorial ranges are affected by human disturbances land and sideline production areas are located in the valley from 1,200-1,500m in elevation.

Occasionally the pandas come into these areas in search of bamboo shoots. Additionally farmland and villages occupy the valley in the elevation range of 800-1,200m. The ecosystem has a subtropical climate as its highest peaks, Taibai Mountain and Xinglongling Mountain, prevent northern cold fronts from affecting the region. In Han River Valley in the south the southeast winds blow. It is naturally Warm in winter and cool in summer with a medium temperature 0f 32T and minimum temperature of-10T.

It also provides ideal breeding sites. Female pandas scent mark by their backsides trees or rocks with their territory to indicate to potential mates that they are in heat.An estimated 3-5 male pandas will have breeding bathes over one female. Female pandas aim to breed only with the strongest male,the winner of the breeding battle, to ensure that good genes will be inherited. In August or September after about 5 months of pregnancy the female panda will migrate from her summer habitat down to the mountain slopes between 1,600-1,900m elevation. She then
searches for a suitable birthing cave, ideally with a southern-facing entrance.

Due to human disturbances in the lower elevations, most of the forests in the winter habitat have been developed and are secondary forests, few tree boIes that pandas prefer to use for birthing. The giant pandas in Qmling Mountains have long habitat fragmentation chosen natuli caves instead of tree holes as birthing locations. We found more than 100 caves in Foping Nature Reserve, of which 75 caves are used by pandas for this purpose. The main characteristic female pandas prefer for their birthing caves are sunny dry with wood bedding, good vegetation, human disturbance and wanner than outside.

The birthing caves are relatively concentrated in one location, across seven coherent slopes and only 50m linear-distance apart. Female pandas territory during the nursery period contains an area of about 20 to 40 hectares around the birthing cave. Scientist investigate this location using GPS location data of the glint panda activity on the caves on a GIS map and showed that giant panda population density is proportionate to the birthing cave concentrated distribution area. The birthing caves are similar to humane houses and the pandas are d1e individual resident Scientists call the birthing cave concentrate distribution area “Panda Village”. Pandas breed in the winter habitat in spring, in autumn , and live in this region about the winter. The natural conditions are ideal for pandas and effectively improves cub survival rate and growth of the population. Panda distribution areas center in Foping adjacent to the surrounding high-density Old County Town, Changqing and Huangbaiyuan.

Giant panda winter habitat in Qnling Mountains provides extremely favorable conditions for panda reproduction and sustainable survival.But because of the lower altitude, abundant wildlife species and human encroachment, the number of human conflicts are increasing,highlighting the between conservation and development Local villagers depend on natural resources, like grazing] tourism, herb collection and bamboo to survive Fire hazards, and illegal logging happen frequently There are three rad ways including a high-speed railway under construction, and a substantial number of highways like national highways] provincial highways and several roads in rural areas. The Qinling Mountains are divided by these roads and as a result isolate the giant pandas from each other to only six territorial range pockets, hilly population exchange. Additionally the introduction of an invasive alien species, the Japanese larch, into the bamboo forest has ruminated naive species. Due to its high fertility rate, high survival rate and low cost,the Japanese larch was introduced and cultivated in large areas. Only a few years later, the invasive alien plant species grew into the forest and suffocated many of the undergrowth including primary food source, bamboo. Its high-oil content leaves are difficult to rot and as it grew over the native species, the undergrowth, including bamboo, died due to lack of water and light. Experts call the larch forest the ~green desert” that led to the panda habitat fragmentary.

The panda winter habitat plays a highly important part in giant panda survival, reproduction and development. Therefore] the primary task of giant panda protection is to Protect the giant panda habitat] especially the winter habitat. The following describes some of the ways to do so:The panda winter habitat is in various experimentation areas or buffer areas of the natural reserve, where the management is weak. The government should prioritize on protecting the panda birthing areas in the experimentation areas and prohibition human activities.

As for the residents in panda winter habitat, the poverty-alleviation and eco-migration programs should be largely introduced to increase the ecological immigration.Continue to strengthen patrol-monitoring efforts in the reserve and carry out special law enforcement anti-poaching and and activities, Continue to establish co-management mechanisms with villagers in and around the nature reserve. Increase economic support, develop resource substitution projects, and reduce the abuse of natural resources.