China has the greatest diversity of wildlife in the world. There are more than 2,000 species of terrestrial vertebrates, more than 10 percent of the world's total. There are 1,189 known species of birds, nearly 500 animal species, more than 210 species of amphibians and 320 species of reptiles. Among the wild animals, there are many rare species found only in China. These include the giant panda, golden monkey, white-lipped deer, takin, Chinese river dolphin and Chinese alligator.
Giant pandas, recognized as one of China's ."national treasures," live in the remote mountain areas of Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces and feed on bamboo. The panda, called a "living fossil," is a remnant species which thrived during the glacier period of the Quaternary.
China has 7,000 species of woody plants, of which 2,800 are arbors. The metasequoia, China cypress, cathaya, silver fir, China fir, golden larch, Taiwan flousiana, Fujian cypress, and eucommia are trees found only in China. The metasequoia grows to 35 metres in height. Commonly found in East Asia, North America and Europe one hundred million years ago, it became extinct by the glacial period of the Quaternary. In 1941, China discovered more than a thousand metasequoias on the Sichuan-Hubei border. This was one of the greatest botanical discoveries of the 20th century. After 1949, metasequoias were introduced to other countries of the world.
In a concerted effort to protect the nation's zoological and botanical resources, China had established 763 nature reserves covering 66.18 million hectares by 1994. Sichuan's Wolong, Jilin's Changbai Mountains, Guangdong's Dinghu Mountains, Guizhou's Fanjing Mountains, Fujian's Wuyi Mountains, Hubei's Shennongjia, Inner Mongolia's Xilingol, Xinjiang's Mt. Bogda, Yunnan's Xishuangbanna and Jiangsu's Yancheng serve as bases for in- ternational scientific research projects; Heilongjiang's Zhalong, Jilin's Xianghai, Dongting Lake in eastern Hunan, Jiangxi's Poyang Lake, Qinghai's Bird Island and Hainan's Dongzhai Harbour have been included in the listing of the world's important waterfowl wetlands. In addition, rescue centres for animals close to extinction have been established in Beijing, Kunming, Guangzhou and elsewhere. To date, China has succeeded in breeding more than 60 species of animals close to extinction, a great contribution to the world's efforts to save such creatores.