The giant panda is no longer endangered

Thanks to Chinese reforestation and protection efforts over the last decades, the giant panda is no longer endangered.

Good news for biodiversity: the giant panda is no longer endangered as its population is growing after the animal being on the brink of extinction since 1990. China’s extensive conservation and protection efforts are paying off as its most emblematic animal sees its status upgraded from being “endangered” to “vulnerable”.

The announcement comes from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the organisation that compiles the Red List of endangered species, the most comprehensive assessment of the conservation status of animals and plants species.

China has been working for years to increase giant panda populations, a species once widespread throughout the country and Southeast Asia.

Since the 1980s, when panda populations began to decline due to poaching and deforestation, China has made huge efforts to protect the animal, banning the panda skin trade in 1981 and poaching in 1988. The country has also been working extensively at breeding programmes and protecting and repopulating bamboo forests, which make up to 99 per cent of the animal’s diet.

As bamboo is under threat, so too is the panda

As the panda is entirely dependent on flourishing bamboo forests to survive, Chinese efforts to save its iconic animal have focused on forest protection and reforestation, leading to “an 11.8 per cent increase in occupied habitat and 6.3 per cent increase in unoccupied but suitable habitat,” according to the IUCN. As a result, panda populations have risen by 17 per cent between 2004 and 2014.

However, “although the population is currently increasing, climate change is predicted to eliminate up to 35 per cent of the panda’s bamboo habitat in the next 80 years, and thus the Panda population is projected to decline,” warns the IUCN in its report.

giant panda eating bamboo
Close up of giant panda eating bamboo © David Lambert/Getty Images

Although it called the decision to downlist the panda to vulnerable status a “positive sign”, the IUCN stressed the importance of continuing to protect pandas and their habitat to prevent emerging environmental threats from reversing recent gains.

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