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WWF Launches Program to Protect Panda Habitat

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A program to protect the habitat of giant pandas in the upper reaches of Yangtze River was launched by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Chengdu Wednesday.

The WWF will invest 40 million yuan (US$5.9 million) over the next three years to assist protection efforts that cover four mountain ranges in the western provinces of Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi.

The agency said in a statement it would protect the endangered animals and their habitats, including forests, water ways and wetlands, and also pilot and promote alternative livelihoods for local farmers to minimize the impact they have done on the environment.

The WWF will work to reduce the negative effects of mass tourism and infrastructure building on the giant pandas and their habitats.

Giant pandas are among the world's most endangered animals due to their shrinking habitats.

There are about 1,600 giant pandas living in China's wild, mostly in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu, according to the State Forestry Administration.

China has built 66 giant panda nature reserves, putting 57 percent of the giant panda population and 80 percent of their habitat under protection.

(Xinhua News Agency January 14, 2009)