Fans of cute critters now have a major black and white reason to celebrate, as the roly-poly giant pandas of China have been officially removed from the endangered species list. Well, to be specific they are only moving from the “endangered” to the “vulnerable” species list, but hey it’s a good start, don’t you think?
CNN brought the happy news that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) took note of the wild giant panda’s global population increase by 17% over a 10-year period from 2004 to 2014, brought on by the restoration and increase of its bamboo forest habitat in China. Such an improvement was enough for a downgrade of threat assessment in the Red List of Threatened Species, from endangered to vulnerable.
For more concrete numbers, back in 2004, adult wild pandas in China amounted to about 1,596 according to a nationwide wildlife census. By 2014 the number has grown to 1,864 of a total population of 2,060. The Chinese government has somehow affected a miracle comeback for the lovable creatures, which are revered in their culture. It was a wonderful bit of news in a decades-spanning battle to save the panda from possible extinction that has been going on since the 1970s.
Pandas are nearly dependent on bamboo to survive, as the plant is practically 99% of their total diet. An average grown panda would need to eat 12 kilograms of bamboo in a day to meet their nutritional needs. IUCN Red List head researcher Craig Hilton-Taylor commented that the simple reforestation of bamboo has helped to provide wild pandas with both food source and habitat in which to grow their numbers.
In addition, China had banned the panda fur trade in 1981, and the animals were given additional safeguards in the 1988 Wildlife Protection Law that banned panda poaching. By 1992 Chinese officials have begun the development of bamboo preserves for wild pandas to live in, while zoos all over the world with gift pandas from China have labored long and hard to breed them in captivity.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) director-general Marco Lambertini is positive about the removal of the panda from the endangered list, saying that it has proved that “When science, political will and engagement of local communities come together, we can save wildlife and also improve biodiversity."
The cute and cuddly pandas are not out of the woods yet though. While bamboo habitats are still growing, the threat of climate change could see changes in the local flora that could devastate bamboo growth in that part of the world within the next 80 years. Still, let’s wish those lovely little creatures well. They’ve earned it along with the people who made it happen.