THE WWF HAS A LONG and distinguished history in China, beginning with the establishment of the first foreign conservation presence there in 1980. Until then, Chinese conservationists had been fighting a rearguard battle in the face of political upheaval and later headlong economic development. Spearheaded by American naturalist George Schaller's visit to the Wolong Nature Reserve in 1980, the WWF and the Chinese government began an overhaul of the reserves in the country and made plans for new reserves where they were needed. Dr Schaller's research with Chinese naturalists Pan Wenshi and Hu Jinchu was a breakthrough for conservation as a field and for the giant panda as a species. The Chinese Ministry of Forestry and the WWF jointly created a management plan for the panda, dubbed the National Conservation Plan for the Giant Panda and its Habitat. Adopted by the State Council in 1992, the plan enabled Sichuan's scientists, researchers and policymakers to strongly support conservation and rigorous scientific study. Little did Dr Schaller know that 20 years after his first visit to Wolong, the tiny shack he glimpsed then would become the centre of worldwide research into sustainable development, habitat conservation and processes to save endangered species.