Giant Pandas Are No Longer an Endangered Species, According to Chinese Officials
Thanks to conservation efforts, giant pandas are no longer an endangered species.
Chinese officials announced earlier this week that since the number of giant pandas in the wild had surpassed 1,800, the species will be reclassified as "vulnerable," according to NBC News.
The Chinese government has created over 50 panda reserves to increase the giant panda population, per the World Wide Fund for Nature. The Wildlife Protection Act, which went into law in 1989, also bans panda poaching.
"China has established a relatively complete nature reserves system," Cui Shuhong, head of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, said at a press conference on Wednesday, reported CNN. "Large areas of natural ecosystems have been systematically and completely protected, and wildlife habitats have been effectively improved."
Giant pandas were previously reclassified as vulnerable back in 2016 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature — a move that Chinese officials were critical of.
At the time, China's State Forestry Administration noted that as pandas tend to live in small groups and face challenges with reproducing, the risk of extinction was still great.
"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 the Associated Press in a 2016 statement. "Therefore, we're not being alarmist by continuing to emphasize the panda species' endangered status."
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Although pandas have few natural predators, they continue to face "severe threats from humans," per the WWF.
"Infrastructure development (such as dams, roads, and railways) is increasingly fragmenting and isolating panda populations, preventing pandas from finding new bamboo forests and potential mates," according to the organization.
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Maintaining the survival of pandas is also an important key to protecting several other species.
Known as an "umbrella species," the WWF wrote that "when we protect pandas, we invariably protect other animals that live around them, such as multicolored pheasants, the golden monkey, takin, and crested ibis."
"Pandas also bring sustainable economic benefits to many local communities through ecotourism," they added.