Giant Pandas No Longer Endangered

In a tremendous win for Chinese conservation efforts, giant pandas are no longer an endangered species. The number of giant pandas living in the wild has reached more than 1,800, which means the species has been reclassified as “vulnerable.”

The new classification comes after Beijing “carried out some major activities and measures to protect biodiversity and achieved remarkable results,” according to Cui Shuhong, head of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.

Shuhong also cited tightened law enforcement and a major crackdown on illegal activities on nature reserves as other reasons for the rising panda population. 

Becky Shu Chen, technical advisor at the Zoological Society of London, said in a phone interview that most of the nature reserves are so big that there are still many populated villages in them. The Chinese government taught villagers agricultural activities that did not destroy the panda’s natural habitat. Experts agree that teaching pandas and humans to coexist is a crucial way to preserve the animals. As a result of the conservation efforts, many other species have flourished: Siberian tigers, Asian elephants, and crested ibises have all seen gradual increases in population numbers.

“China’s successful conservation of giant pandas shows what can be achieved when political will and science join forces,” said Colby Loucks, World Wildlife Fund’s Vice President for Wildlife Conservation. “Continuing these conversations 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.”

For China, the giant panda has been considered a national treasure for decades, and has been a protected species since the enactment of the wildlife conservation law in 1958.

Beijing also engages in “panda diplomacy,” lending the furry friends to zoos around the world as a gesture of friendship.