Pandas no longer on endangered species list, but still vulnerable
The International Union for Conservation of Nature said in a report released Sunday that the panda has been taken off the "endangered" species list and is now classified as "vulnerable."
The change reflects its growing numbers in the wild of southern China. According to the report, the wild panda population increased to 1,864 in 2014 from 1,596 in 2004 as a result of agencies enforcing poaching bans and expanding forest reserves. However, the report did cite that climate change is predicted to eliminate more than 35 percent of pandas' natural bamboo habitat in the next 80 years and could potentially lead to another decline.
On Monday, China's State Forestry Administration disputed the change by stating that panda's natural habitats have been affected significantly by natural and human causes. According to the agency, pandas live in small, isolated groups of as few as 10 pandas that struggle to reproduce and face the risk of disappearing.
"If we downgrade their conservation status, or neglect or relax our conservation work, the populations and habitats of giant pandas could still suffer irreversible loss and our achievements would be quickly lost," the forestry administration said.
The WWF, whose logo has been a panda since 1961, celebrated the panda's re-classification, saying it proved that aggressive investment does pay off "when science, political will and engagement of local communities come together."
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