(San Francisco / WildAid) TOMS is partnering with WildAid to protect the giant panda in Sichuan, China by providing educational opportunities to impoverished students living adjacent to critical panda habitats. Safeguarding giant pandas, which are listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is essential to preserving the biodiversity of their habitats, and with less than 2,000 left in the wild, they need continued protection.
The giant panda is an umbrella species; protecting them and their habitats indirectly benefits numerous other rare plants and animals. Giant panda habitats in China support 70% of endemic forest bird and mammal species, 31% of endemic forest amphibians, more than 10,000 types of seed plants (about 33% of China's seed plants) and more than 1,000 different vertebrates (about 17% of China’s vertebrates). Among these, more than 290 species are considered “threatened” by the IUCN Red List.
With generous support from TOMS, WildAid and the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding will launch the “Giant Panda and Biodiversity” public awareness campaign. The campaign’s goal is to increase awareness of the importance of giant panda protection, to improve society’s understanding of the relationship between habitat and biodiversity preservation, and to demonstrate China’s success in the giant panda breeding and conservation efforts.
As part of the campaign, WildAid and the Chengdu Panda Base will recognize students in villages neighboring Sichuan’s Giant Panda Reserve as Environmental Pioneers, and will provide educational materials and learning activities to enhance students’ enthusiam for conservation and environmental protection.
In addition, WildAid and the Chengdu Panda Base will conduct a global search to recruit two students (aged 12-18 with basic Mandarin skills) for a ten-day internship at the research base. The selected students will partipate in the different aspects of field protection work and learn first hand what its like to be a panda caretaker. WildAid and its media partner, Pear Video (China’s popular video content producing app), will document the entire experience and air the video on their platform. This once in a lifetime experience is intended to inspire youth to care about conservation and biodiversity as well as showcase the tremendous efforts and contributions of China in the conservation and breeding of this iconic species.
The TOMS and WildAid Panda collection of limited edition vegan footwear, inspired by the vulnerable giant panda, launches today and will help support these conservation and educational efforts in Sichuan.