Image via George Lu
Through a cruel coincidence, the habitats of China’s giant pandas also happen to be the country’s best potential land for wine vineyards, and a turf war has started between the bear-protectors and the Bordeaux-pushers. Authorities in Shaanxi—prime panda territory—plan to build 18,000 hectares of vineyards, and similar schemes are in the works for Sichuan. Unless pandas can switch from bamboo to grapes, there are some hard times to come.
South China Morning Post reports that many provinces and prefectures are jumping on the vineyard-bandwagon, and that pandas had best be ready to get screwed:
Last year Sichuan invited winemakers from countries such as France, Spain, Australia and the United States to visit Chengdu and take a tour of prefectures such as Liangshan, Aba and Ganzi – all regions that are officially recognised as natural habitats of giant pandas.
These prefecture-level governments are being even more ambitious about wine production than their provincial counterparts.
Aba plans to expand its vineyards six-fold, to more than 6,600 hectares, by 2020 and convert more than 40,000 farmers, mostly Tibetans, into vineyard workers. […]
“Vineyards [placed] around a panda reserve can definitely affect the animals. Pandas move outside of reserves, so the forest outside is an important habitat,” [Dr. Lee Hannah, climate and biology specialist] said.
“If wine grapes go into an area that is currently used for other crops, there is little impact. However, if forest is cleared to plant wine grapes, there may be direct loss of panda habitat. If wine grapes [are grown] on land used for grazing, livestock may be displaced into panda habitat.”
Clearing forests, Hannah said, would have the most serious consequences for pandas.
But a government employee in the administrative office of Danba county, Ganzi, said that while the protection of pandas was important, the benefits of vineyards were immediate and irresistible.
No way! Chinese authorities are willing to sacrifice priceless natural wonders or cultural history in the name of a cheap buck? Judging by how these conflicts have played out in the past, the pandas should start packing.