Giant Pandas No Longer Critically Endangered

Caroline Foley, Staff Writer

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has officially removed the giant panda from the list of endangered animals.

The giant panda, an international symbol of wildlife conservation efforts, was recently removed from the list of endangered species because of successful efforts by the Chinese government and conservationists to reverse the slide of the population using forest protection and reforestation, according to The New York Times.

Although the panda’s removal from the “endangered” list is a step in the right direction, the species is not completely out of the woods. The giant panda’s new designation is on the “vulnerable” list, meaning that while the population’s overall status has improved and increased in number, the pandas are still in danger of reverting back to their former state.

The IUCN stated in its assessment of the giant pandas, “Whereas the decision to downlist the giant panda to vulnerable is a positive sign confirming that the Chinese government’s efforts to conserve this species are effective, it is critically important that these protective measures are continued, and that emerging threats are addressed.”

The State Forestry Administration of China has expressed disagreement with the removal of giant pandas from the “endangered” list, telling the Associated Press in a statement: “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. Therefore, we’re not being alarmist by continuing to emphasize the panda species’ endangered status.”

Although the panda’s new listing has been contested by Chinese government officials, tangible progress has been made in saving the species.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, an organization that has been working with the Chinese government since 1961 to implement initiatives designed to prevent numbers of giant pandas from sliding, “we have seen the number of panda reserves jump to 67, which now protect nearly two-thirds of all wild pandas. They (the reserves) have also helped to safeguard large swathes of mountainous bamboo forests, which shelter countless other species and provide natural services to vast numbers of people, including tens of millions who live alongside rivers downstream of panda habitat.”  The giant panda is such an icon of conservation that the WWF represents its image in their logo.

Even though pandas may never be completely free of harm, a step in the right direction for the struggling species speaks volumes about the effects of conservation and the possibility of coming back from the brink of extinction.


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