Giant pandas no longer classed as endangered after population growth, China says

Now that the number of pandas in the wild has reached 1,800, Chinese officials have reclassified them as “vulnerable.”

Image: 9-month-old male giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji climbs in a tree at the Smithsonian National Zoo
 Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

By Christina Ching Yin Chan | NBC News

HONG KONG — Giant pandas are no longer an endangered species, Chinese officials have announced, in a massive win for conservation efforts in the country.

The number of giant pandas living in the wild has reached more than 1,800, meaning the species has been reclassified as “vulnerable,” Chinese officials said earlier this week.

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

It is notoriously difficult to get pandas to breed both in captivity and in the wild.

JUNE 23, 202100:47

He also credited tightened law enforcement supervision and a major crackdown on illegal activities on nature reserves.

Experts say China managed to preserve the animals, considered a national symbol, by taking measures that allow humans and pandas to coexist.

Becky Shu Chen, technical advisor at the Zoological Society of London, pointed out in a phone interview that most of the nature reserves are so huge that there are still populated human villages inside them.

She credited the Chinese government with teaching villagers agricultural activities that did not destroy the panda’s natural habitat, such as in Changchun, the home of a panda zoo, where locals sold “panda honey.”

Image: Giant panda Bei Bei eats in its enclosure at the Bifengxia base of the China Conservation and Research Centre of the Giant Panda in Yaan, China's southwestern Sichuan province
Giant panda Bei Bei eats in its enclosure at the Bifengxia base in Yaan, Sichuan province, in 2019.AFP – Getty Images file

The villagers “protected the home of pandas, which is one of the reasons that they are now downgraded to ‘vulnerable,’” said Chen.

In China, the giant panda has long been considered a national treasure and has been a protected species since the implementation of the wildlife conservation law in 1958.

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