The giant panda is one of the world’s flagship species in biodiversity conservation. The Giant Panda National Park – announced during the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15) – is the biggest Panda Reserve in the world, sitting on the borders of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, covering an area of 27,134 square kilometers. There are more than 1,200 wild giant pandas in Sichuan, accounting for three-quarters of the entire park.
Giant panda nature reserves are usually in virgin forests, where some areas have no internet or even electricity. This raises great challenges to traditional communication and information, data and location tracking, so new communication technologies and methods are required. At the same time, the habitats of giant pandas are mostly in remote mountainous areas with relatively backward economies, and because of China’s environmental protection policy, the local area does not allow the development of industry and modern agriculture. Achieving the organic unity of ecological development and poverty alleviation is the challenge of constructing sustainable ecological and economic development.
The “Digital Panda” Project (Chinese name: 熊猫来了) – developed by ZTE and China Mobile Sichuan Branch under the guidance of the Giant Panda National Park Chengdu Administration and Sichuan Forestry and Grassland Administration (supported by Shan Shui Conservation Center and The Nature Conservancy) – is one of the technical poverty alleviation and rural revitalization strategies. New technologies and new production methods such as 5G messaging and other 5G technologies have been introduced, while ecological projects such as returning farmland to forests and protecting forests and greenery are carried out to improve local livelihood. The project can more effectively protect the ecosystem of the giant panda and its habitat. The vision is to achieve a harmonious unity between man and nature.
In particular, through the digital service channel brought by 5G Messaging with ubiquitous and rich interactive capabilities, it can help attract more people’s attention to biodiversity protection represented by giant pandas, so as to achieve the common concern of the whole society.
China Mobile partnered with ZTE to build the world’s largest commercial 5G messaging (RCS) network. 5G messaging applications are mainly distributed to users of the panda base, visitors to the park, roaming customers at the airport and train station, and users interested in consuming cultural and creative products about pandas. Currently, the daily volume of 5G messaging is 5 million text messages and 2 million multimedia messages.
5G messaging is considered as the next-generation messaging service in the 5G era. Compared with other OTT and app solutions, 5G messaging is based on mobile phone numbers, and does not require users to download/register any client apps. They can be operated on the SMS interface that comes with the terminals. It has the typical characteristics of being ubiquitous, efficient and safe. Users can complete the interactive experience of all services in the message window.
5G messaging provides a digital channel with the most convenient and widest coverage for the public to participate in protecting giant pandas. People can enjoy panda protection education and simulation games through the 5G messaging interface with the participation of the whole society. Users earn points through game activities such as watching panda live streams, virtual adoption, virtual feeding, virtual bamboo planting – they can also use points and cash to purchase panda commemorative goods and local agricultural products. In this application practice, all 5G messaging online experiences and consumption are set to a certain percentage of donations from merchants for the research on the protection of giant pandas, the construction of ecological civilization and the revitalization of local villages in the habitat.
The project uses the integration function of 5G messaging to help the panda base realize digital innovative marketing practices, and further enhance the immersive and intelligent experience of tourists (smart parks and smart cities, including but not limited to route planning, parking reservations, ticket purchase reservations, catering reservations, nearby toilets, etc.), through knowledge science popularization, online video broadcast, online/offline interaction, publicity and operation, to realize the full life cycle research management and operation of the protection of giant pandas and their habitats.
There’s also virtual tourism, which includes video live streams and sharable clips of pandas in the reserve via a 5G messaging platform, so people can see the pandas without having to leave home. For people who do venture out to the park, the 5G messaging system enables tourists to buy tickets, drinks and gifts like panda toys, and also provides information about the park.
The “Digital Panda” project has established a 5G Messaging Bamboo Seedling Fund to encourage local people to plant bamboo and develop the bamboo industry. The harvested bamboo can be turned into bamboo products, and can also be purchased at the panda base as feed for captive pandas. In 2020, the poverty line per capita in the least developed areas in Sichuan Province was 1200 RMB per year. Taking Laohegou Nature Reserve in Pingwu County, Sichuan Province as an example, through this plan, it can generate about 1,500 RMB in annual income for each participant on average.
The project not only promotes the development of panda protection and the current economic development of the panda protection area, but is also bound to promote wider applications in other cherished species and ecological civilization protection projects. Meanwhile, the panda is a representative species in Northeast Asia. The fund can also be extended to the protection of other species (such as Siberian tigers, snow leopards, golden monkeys, elk, etc.) and poverty alleviation for villagers in local reserves of these species.
Under the guidance of the Panda Administration and Sichuan Forestry and Grassland Administration, the project has also received professional technical support from the Shan Shui Conservation Center and The Nature Conservancy to expand the solution into a digital ecological protection solution for Northeast Asia.