In Honolulu, Hawaii, giant pandas were officially removed from the list of endangered species on Sunday, September 4. These creatures were instead moved to the list of species that are vulnerable to extinction which means that while the giant panda population is still in trouble, they are not as close to extinction as they were before.
Giant pandas were first declared endangered in 1990, and their rise in population is a major victory for those trying to conserve the natural world. Giant pandas have seen a seventeen percent rise in population since 2014, which can be largely credited to the Chinese government who have made numerous efforts in protecting them.
Giant pandas have undergone many struggles that contribute to their low populations. One of these struggles was widespread poaching (hunting and killing) in the 1980s. Pandas were often poached because of their valuable and desired pelts. According to National Geographic, a panda pelt was once sold for $65,000. In the eighties, in China, two hundred and seventy eight people were found guilty of illegally hunting pandas and selling parts of the panda. Of these people, sixteen were given life sentences and three received the death penalty. Since then, China has really cracked down on poaching, which is an important step towards protecting them.
Panda populations also struggle because of the loss of habitat. It has taken a long time to rebuild the population of giant pandas, which can be attributed to reasons such as bamboo forests being cut down in China. This is a potential problem because most of the panda’s diet is bamboo (according to National Geographic, one adult panda eats twelve and a half kilograms of bamboo a day). Conservation of the panda’s bamboo habitat is critical to their survival. However, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) predicts that there will be thirty percent less bamboo forests in the next eighty years due to climate change. This unfortunately means we will most likely see another decline in the giant panda population.
Some people have claimed that it is too soon to state that pandas are no longer endangered. Among these people, Marc Brody, who is an important figure at China’s Wolong Nature Reserve, said that “It is too early to conclude that pandas are actually increasing in the wild-perhaps we are simply getting better at counting wild pandas [and that] there is no justifiable reason to downgrade the listing from endangered to threatened”.
Giant pandas are notably the logo of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The founder of the WWF Sir Peter Scott and his team decided to use Chi-Chi, a giant panda from the London Zoo as their basis for the logo.
While the increase in number of giant pandas is good news in terms of efforts towards protecting the natural world, there are other issues surrounding other species. For example, the eastern gorilla is now being classified as critically endangered. The species has seen a near seventy percent decrease in population, with a total of around five thousand living in the wild. This number is still significantly more than the estimated population of giant pandas, which is only 1,864. This means that humans are the only species of great apes still alive today that are not critically endangered.