SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Giant pandas are no longer an endangered species, China recognized this week.
The species is now considered vulnerable, according to the country’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment’s Department of Nature and Ecology Conservation head, Cui Shuhong.
If this news seems familiar, it is. The International Union for Conservation of Nature first took giant pandas out of endangered status back in 2016, downgrading them earlier to vulnerable status.
However, officials in China – the native home to giant pandas – did not agree with the IUCN‘s designation at the time.
Now, after decades of work to preserve the country’s revered animal and its ecosystem, Shuhong said “wildlife habitats have been effectively improved,” CNN reports. And with it, the number of giant pandas.
Since conservation efforts began with China’s first panda reserves in the early 1960s, the population of giant pandas has grown by the hundreds.
In 2021, Cui Shuhong said there are now at least 1,800 giant pandas – compared to about 1,114 giant pandas back in the 1980s, according to the World Wide Fund For Nature. The WWF said it officially joined China in efforts to save the pandas in 1979.
The IUCN cites habitat loss as the prevailing threat to giant pandas, and there is still a long way to go to consider the species completely unthreatened.