One of the world’s most popular totems of the need for wildlife conservation may now become a symbol for the movement’s success: the beloved giant panda is officially no longer an endangered species.
On Sept. 4, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which just announced the near-extinction of the eastern gorilla, says they’ve moved the giant panda off their endangered species list. The panda bear will remain listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN’s “Red List,” which classifies species according to population sizes and threats they are facing.
The global giant panda population has been on the rise, with an estimated total population of 2,060 pandas in 2015, up from 1,596 counted in a 2000-2004 census. Both statistics were obtained from China’s forestry agencies.
According to the IUCN, Chinese government forest protection and reforestation efforts have been a large part in the successful protection of the panda bear. The organization has observed increased forest cover in China, providing more potential habitat to giant pandas. However, the IUCN also notes that climate change will likely eliminate over 35% of panda habitats in the next 80 years, potentially reversing the progress made in the past two decades. Therefore, they say, the animal’s long-term survival very much remains dependant on continuing conservation efforts.