After decades of conservation efforts to save giant pandas, Chinese officials said Wednesday that the bears are no longer endangered, CNN reported Friday.
Giant pandas have a population of up to 1,800 and will be classified now as vulnerable, according to CNN. Vulnerable species are considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild, rather than extremely high, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.
For nearly 50 years, China has created panda reserves across several mountain ranges to boost the population, according to CNN.
“China has established a relatively complete nature reserves system,” Cui Shuhong, director of the Department of Natural Ecological Protection of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, said Wednesday at a press conference, CNN reported. “Large areas of natural ecosystems have been systematically and completely protected, and wildlife habitats have been effectively improved.”
The populations of some other endangered animals are improving too, Cui said, according to CNN. “The number of species such as Siberian tigers, Amur leopards, Asian elephants, and crested ibis has increased significantly.”
China announced the project to create a 10,476-square-mile reserve in 2017, which is three times the size of Yellowstone National Park, according to CNN.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature, an organization for studying nature conservation, removed giant pandas from their endangered lists in 2016, but China didn’t follow the move until Friday.
Habitat destruction is one of the main reasons that pandas were endangered, according to Animal Fact Guide. As China’s economy continues to grow, pandas will have smaller livable areas with food shortages, according to Animal Fact Guide.
Female giant pandas can only become pregnant for 24 to 72 hours each year, making it difficult to spur population growth, according to CNN.
That isn’t to say these animals can’t give birth, in fact, a panda at the Ueno Zoo in Japan gave birth to twin cubs in June. Likewise, a red panda escaped from its home at the Columbus, Ohio, zoo after giving birth to two cubs in July 2020.
The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., named one of their newest pandas Xiao Qi Ji in November 2020, which in English translates to “little miracle,” due to its small size.
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