Big News for China's Giant Pandas

They're now considered a vulnerable species in the wild, not endangered
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 9, 2021 2:02 PM CDT
Giant Pandas in China No Longer Endangered
In this Aug. 23, 2015, file photo, the Smithsonian National Zoo's Mei Xiang sleeps in the indoor habitat in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Giant pandas outside of captivity in China just saw a status upgrade. Thanks to conservation efforts, they're no longer considered an endangered species, but a vulnerable one, reports the Guardian, which notes there are about 1,800 pandas currently in the country's wild. Environment Ministry rep Cui Shuhong said "improved living conditions," including an expansion of the pandas' habitats and the planting of bamboo forests as a food supply, have been key to helping the situation. At a press conference, Cui noted that "large areas of natural ecosystems have been systematically and completely protected," which has led to the numbers for other species—including Amur leopards, Siberian tigers, and Asian elephants—rising as well.

That falls in line with experts' belief that pandas are an "umbrella" species, meaning that by centering conservation efforts around that species, it will have the effect of helping other species as well, notes CNN. Part of the problem behind the low numbers of giant pandas is they have a hard time breeding, per Sky News: Females can only conceive during one 24- to 72-hour window per year. China's reclassification of the pandas was preceded five years ago by a similar decision by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which China at the time decried. Experts then said the ruling would make people in China complacent. Reaction to the latest news is both elated and cautious, with one observer on Chinese social media noting, per the Guardian: "It's a good start indeed, but there are still threats to these species. Do not relax." (More giant pandas stories.)

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