Giant Pandas' Habitat — 20 Isolated Patches in Western China

Qinling MountainsQinling, one of the major living places of Giant Pandas

The only remaining giant panda habitat is on the mountainous eastern edge of west China, in Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces. Giant Pandas mainly live in Sichuan Province (thus nicknamed “home of Giant Pandas”).

Habitat Description

Giant pandas live in large bamboo forests on humid and relatively high mountains — about 1,200 to 3,100 meters (4,000 to 10,000 feet) above sea level. Currently about 1,600 giant pandas live in over 20,000 square kilometers (8,000 mi2) of habitat.

Giant Panda Habitat Has Shrunk to Isolated Patches

The giant panda’s habitat once spread across central, southern, and eastern China, and China’s neighboring countries of Myanmar and northern Vietnam. But it has been dramatically reduced by the growth in China’s logging and farming practices. Now the species is restricted to only about 20 isolated patches in western China’s Sichuan, Gansu, and Shaanxi Provinces.

giant panda habitat map

The Major Areas of Giant Panda Habitat

Wild giant Pandas are mainly distributed in the Min Mountains in Sichuan and Gansu provinces, and the Qinling Mountains in Shaanxi Province.

Giant Panda Distribution Map

The Min Mountains

The Min Mountains (岷山 Mínshān) support the largest population of pandas in China, 44% of all China's pandas. 27 giant panda reserves have been established in the mountains to protect them.

The Qin Mountains

wild giant panda at foping nature reserveA wild giant panda in Foping Nature Reserve in Qinling Mountains

The Qin Mountains (秦岭 Qínlǐng) are part of China’s most important watershed, which provide a natural barrier between the North and South of the country. They are home to 270 Qinling pandas, a sub-species of the giant panda.

Foping and Changqing nature reserves have been established there to protect them and other rare species.

Foping Nature Reserve is humid all year around, which suits suitable the pandas, and 55% of the forest is bamboo, giant pandas' only food. Many pandas live in this 350 km2 (140 mi2) reserve, around one for an area of 2.5 kilometers. Coming across a panda there is quite likely. The reserve is closed to travelers at the time of writing.

Giant Panda Protection

Giant Panda Breeding and Research Centers

Giant pandas at Chengdu Panda Breeding CenterGiant Pandas at Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

Breeding and research centers have been established to help the reproduction of this species. Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Center and Bifengxia Giant Panda Center are the two major ones. They are also the best places to see giant pandas in China. Continue to read more on the best places to see giant pandas in China.

Over 50 Nature Reserves

There are over 50 nature reserves, covering over 10,000 km2 (4,000 mi2), to protect this endangered species. Wolong (130 km, 80 mi, from Chengdu) and Foping are the two major giant panda protection reserves.

Connecting Isolated Habitats with Bamboo Forest

Bamboo forest has been planted in the zones between some isolated patches of giant panda habitat to link them together. Now giant pandas have a chance to migrate if food is scarce in their area.  

Reforestation to extend existing habitats also helps create a more spacious and less stressful environment for the pandas.

Top Places to See Giant Pandas in China

RZ140409033 Holing a giant panda at Doujiangyan Base

The best place to see giant pandas is, Of course, in Sichuan Province in west China, although you can see them in zoos in other cities, such as Beijing Zoo and Hong Kong Ocean Park. The Giant Panda Breeding Center in Chengdu,Sichuan, is the best place to see giant pandas, and Doujiangyan Base close to Chengdu is the best place for giant panda volunteer program. Read more details on top places to see giant pandas in China.

See Giant Panda with China Highlights

We know many travelers want to add the experience of seeing giant pandas to their China trips. The following are our most popular giant panda tours:

Or our travel advisors can also help you tailor-make a tour according to your requirements.