The impact of the vast efforts made to save the giant panda, a worldwide symbol of wildlife conservation for the last fifty years is finally being seen in full effect. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which keeps track of threatened species across the world said it was reclassifying the animal as only ‘vulnerable’. Giant pandas are native to Chinese bamboo forests, and their population in the wild has risen steadily by 17 percent in the wild over the last decade according to the IUCN and a nationwide consensus found 1850 giant pandas in the wild in China, which is an increase from the last consensus of 1600 in 2003.
Giant pandas have been endangered since 1990, and their recent success is due to two factors: A decrease in poaching, which was rampant in the 1980s; and a huge expansion in the animal’s protected habitat. Their geographic range has increased by nearly 12 percent since 2003, according to the most recent Giant Panda Survey conducted with the help of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The WWF, whose symbol is the giant panda described the results for the animal as “hugely encouraging”, as China now has 67 panda reserves.
However, the giant panda, at fewer than 2000 individuals is not completely out of the woods yet. The IUCN and several models predict that climate change will wipe out more than 30 percent of the panda’s bamboo habitat in the next 80 years, which could reverse the gains made.
Overall, the panda’s recent growth is a reminder “that conservation works”, as stated by Inger Andersen, the IUCN’s director general. Nevertheless, nobody should rest on their laurels as conservation is a long-term endeavor. As senior scientist at the nonprofit organization Conservation International Dr. M Sanjayan stated, “You celebrate the small victories, but you keep track of the war”.