The panda bear is one of the most lovable and popular wild animals in popular culture. It is a mascot, a cartoon, part of internet memes. The fact that there are so few panda bears left, brings a level of awareness about the fate of these large animals. Many care about this endangered species. For environmental reasons and also, more generally, for the overall cuteness of the animal.
This Sunday, a leading wildlife group took the panda off its endangered species list. Thanks to many years of conservation efforts, it looks like the number of panda bears alive is up for the first time in a long time.
Good News About Pandas
The International Union for Conservation of Nature released a report this Sunday that changed the classification of the giant panda. The status of the wild animal is now “vulnerable”, whereas it used to be “endangered”. The change was made to reflect that there are now more panda bears in the wild in southern China. The population of wild panda bears was 1,596 in 2004. Ten years later, in 2014, according to their studies, there were 1,864 pandas in the wild.
The panda population had reached an all-time low in the 1980’s. Because of poaching and deforestation, there were less than 1000 giant pandas alive. Beijing finally reacted and took decisive action to protect the animal. Also, as a gesture of goodwill, China sent pandas to zoos the world over. Which is way we can now see the large animal at a zoo closer than its natural habitat.
However, the report issued a warning for the future. The increase in panda numbers has come about with better forest protection. The fate of the giant panda depends very much on their natural habitat. And on whether or not they can find bountiful resources of food and nutrition. The warning regards precisely their natural habitat. According to the report, global warming is likely to eliminate around 35 percent of bamboo forests in southern China. That could lead to another decline in panda bear populations.
China’s Reaction to the News
This Monday however, China discounted the reclassification. The Chinese government expressed their own point of view, saying that as far as they are concerned the status of the panda is just as serious.
China’s State Forestry Administration gave a statement to The Associated Press. They said that they are disputing the change in classification. They motivated their position by saying that natural and human causes have had a long-lasting effect on the natural habitat of the panda. The Forestry Administration said that the pandas live in small, isolated groups of about ten pandas. That they struggle to reproduce and according to them still face the threat of extinction.
Still, wildlife groups were very happy to hear the news. The panda bear has been a symbol of the global conservation movement for so long. It is great to finally see an improvement in the situation of this beloved animal. Maybe the move of the species from “endangered” to “vulnerable” will prove to skeptics that conservation efforts work. And that even a terrible situation can be turned around.
Image source: here.