These fluffy creatures still aren’t in the clear, though, as they are still treated as vulnerable.
After more than three decades, giant pandas are no longer classified as endangered after their population in the wild reached 1,800, Chinese conservation officials announced on Wednesday, July 7.
Giant pandas have now been moved to the category of “vulnerable,” which means that conservation efforts must be maintained according to Cui Shuhong head of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment’s Department of Nature and Ecology Conservation during a news conference.
Nonetheless, the victory signifies that these efforts, which include habitat expansion and maintaining nature preserves, are working. In fact, they have also proved beneficial for other species currently under surveillance, including Siberian tigers, Asian elephants, and crested ibises, who have all seen a significant increase in population, per Chinese news agency Xinhua.
Giant pandas were first put in the endangered species list back in 1990 due to excessive poaching and deforestation which depleted their main food source, the bamboo. It was moved back to “vulnerable” back in 2016 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); however, Chinese conservation officials challenged the decision as premature.
“If we downgrade their conservation status, or neglect or relax our conservation work, the populations and habitats of giant pandas could still suffer irreversible loss and our achievements would be quickly lost,” China’s State Forestry Administration told Associated Press back in 2016. “Therefore, we’re not being alarmist by continuing to emphasize the panda species’ endangered status.”
This makes China’s latest pronouncement the first to be based on its own standards, which are patterned after the Swiss-based IUCN.
Colby Loucks, World Wildlife Fund’s Vice President for Wildlife Conservation, told NPR that the news is “another sign of hope for the species.”
“Thanks to decades of collaboration between the Chinese government, local communities, companies and NGOs, the giant panda’s future is more secure,” he said. “China’s successful conservation of giant pandas shows what can be achieved when political will and science join forces”
He added: “Continuing these conservation efforts is critical, but we need to stay vigilant on the current and future impacts climate change may have on giant pandas and their mountainous forest habitat.”