Chinese authorities have stated that giant pandas are no longer extinct but are still vulnerable, with a population outside of captivity of 1,800.
The head of the environment ministry’s department of nature and ecology conservation, Cui Shuhong, said the reclassification was the result of “improved living conditions and China’s efforts in keeping their habitats integrated”. He said the announcement reflected China’s national efforts to preserve biodiversity in recent years. The authorities have worked to expand giant pandas’ habitats and replanted bamboo forests to feed them.
The decision by China’s own conservation authority comes five years after the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) removed giant pandas from its endangered species list and classified them as vulnerable. Many Chinese experts disputed the decision at the time, arguing that it was misleading and would cause complacency in China, where the animals are considered a national treasure. They have been used as a part of Beijing’s international diplomacy since the 1950s.
Pandas do still face long-term threats however, as the IUCN has said climate change could destroy more than 35% of their bamboo habitat in the next 80 years.
Alongside giant pandas, Cui stated that Siberian tigers, amur leopards, Asian elephants and crested ibis have also “visibly increased” as a result of continuing conservation efforts in recent years.