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Giant Pandas Removed from IUCN's Endangered List -- How Did China Do It?

Sep 05, 2016 06:00 PM EDT
Giant Pandas Play After Snow In Hangzhou
HANGZHOU, CHINA - JANUARY 21: (CHINA OUT) A giant panda plays on snow at Hangzhou Zoo on January 21, 2016 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province of China. Heavy snow falls in south China's Zhejiang Province in new year 2016 on Thursday.
(Photo : ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)

The years of conservation efforts on giant pandas in China have proven successful as these adorable bears have been downgraded from being "Endangered" to Vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. However, is climate change trumping everything that China has done for the past years?

According to the World Wide Fund (WWF), the IUCN announced that a nationwide census counted 2,060 giant pandas (1,864 of which are adults) in the wild, which means that there has been a 17 percent rise in its population in China since 2014. But how did China achieved this remarkable feat?

Full Tummies Mean Happy Pandas

BBC notes that for years, China has been active in its effort in saving giant pandas. One of their conservation efforts was to create and populate more bamboos in forests, which makes up most of the giant panda's everyday diet.

"Just by restoring the panda's habitat, that's given them back their space and made food available to them," said Craig Hilton-Taylor, head of IUCN's Red List. "You need to get the bamboo back and slowly the numbers will start to creep back."

Ginette Hemley, senior vice-president of WWF, agrees to the idea of restoring habitats, saying that China's move to make new and replenish former bamboo reserves is one example of "a government [that] is committed to conservation."

“For over fifty years, the giant panda has been the globe’s most beloved conservation icon as well as the symbol of WWF. Knowing that the panda is now a step further from extinction is an exciting moment for everyone committed to conserving the world’s wildlife and their habitats,” said Marco Lambertini, WWF Director.

Climate Change a Party Pooper?

Despite this welcoming news, climate change might just be a party pooper in the middle of this celebration. BBC says that rapid climate change might just destroy a third of the giant pandas' bamboo habitats in the next 80 years. Due to the warmer climate, bamboo might not even survive; thus, giant pandas will lose a primary source of food.

“Everyone should celebrate this achievement but pandas remain scattered and vulnerable, and much of their habitat is threatened by poorly-planned infrastructure projects – and remember: there are still only 1,864 left in the wild," said Lo Sze Ping, CEO WWF-China.

The WWF says that to ensure that giant pandas do not go back to being endangered, a lot of work still needs to be done. This include partenring with local communities, calling for government investment and spreading awareness of how bamboo habitats are important for giant pandas.

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