Good news for giant pandas (and the people who love them): the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) no longer considers them to be an endangered species, LiveScience reports.
On Sunday, September 4, IUCN announced updates to its Red List of Threatened Species, a comprehensive inventory that details the global conservation status of various animal, plants, and fungi species. According to the organization, the giant panda’s population numbers have increased enough for the group to downgrade the species as “vulnerable."
Wild giant pandas mostly live in China’s bamboo forests. Threats including poaching and human-caused habitat destruction—which drives animals from their homes and also causes food shortages—pushed the giant panda to the brink of extinction. But due to recent forest protection and reforestation measures, things are looking up: A nationwide census conducted in 2014 found that China’s wild population of adult giant pandas now numbers 1864—a dramatic increase from 1596 in 2004. Add cubs to the mix, and the number rises to 2060.
Thanks in part to the World Wildlife Fund’s iconic logo, few endangered species are more recognizable than the adorable giant panda. But the WWF shouldn’t consider changing its mascot just yet: Even though its population is rebounding, the IUCN says that the panda’s habitat and food sources are still threatened by climate change. More than 35 percent of its bamboo habitat could vanish over the next century, they warn.
“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 IUCN’s report concluded.
According to The New York Times, the Tibetan antelope was also removed from the IUCN’s “endangered” list—but other animals didn’t fare so well. The eastern gorilla is now closer to extinction, and the plains zebra is “near threatened” due to hunting.
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