The giant panda’s status has been downgraded to “vulnerable” thanks to conservationists’ efforts.
On September 4, 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced that populations of the giant panda have increased enough for the species’ status to be downgraded to “vulnerable.” In 2004, there were only 1,596 bears in the wild. Now, according to a 2014 nationwide census, there are now 2,060 in China.
This positive news is a result of conservationists employing a number of different tactics to protect the beloved species – specifically protecting the creatures’ habitat and initiating reforestation programs. It also helped that poaching of giant pandas was banned (as their hides were considered a commodity).
China’s panda reserve system also deserves credit, considering it helped to increase the bears’ habitats. At present, there are 67 reserves which protect approximately 5,400 square miles (14,000 sq kilometers) of habitat, reports CNN. That’s approximately 67% of the panda population!
The IUCN wrote in its assessment:
“The decision to downlist the giant panda to ‘vulnerable’ is a positive sign confirming that the Chinese government’s efforts to conserve this species are effective.”
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – which has used the panda in its logo since 1961 – released a statement concerning the positive news:
“For over fifty years, the giant panda has been the globe’s most beloved conservation icon as well as the symbol of WWF. Knowing that the panda is now a step further from extinction is an exciting moment for everyone committed to conserving the world’s wildlife and their habitats.”
“The recovery of the panda shows that when science, political will and engagement of local communities come together, we can save wildlife and also improve biodiversity.”
The giant panda isn’t completely in the clear, however. The IUCN warns that the gains made in the past few decades could be reversed by climate change and decreasing bamboo availability. The organization relays that the panda’s bamboo habitat could disappear in the next 80 years.
Joe Walston, Vice President of Conservation Field Programs for the Wildlife Conservation Society, told Live Science:
“It is a real concern, and this is emblematic of what species are facing globally with regard to climate change. The most important thing we can do at the moment is to be able to grow the extent and range of that habitat and by doing that you allow pandas to move across landscapes.”
In result, conservation efforts will continue to ensure the species does not go extinct during any of our lifetimes.
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