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Giant pandas are no longer an endangered species; they’re now considered "vulnerable" to extinction. The new designation was announced over the weekend by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an environmental organization that keeps track of the conservation status of plants and animals, according to The New York Times .
The status update is good news for the animals, but it doesn’t mean that pandas are safe. The IUCN says that in the next 80 years, climate change could destroy more than 35 percent of bamboo forests, where pandas live on a bamboo-only diet. That would definitely have consequences for their conservation.
"Whereas the decision to downlist the giant panda to vulnerable is a positive sign confirming that the Chinese government’s efforts to conserve this species are effective," the IUCN wrote. "it is critically important that these protective measures are continued, and that emerging threats are addressed."
Giant pandas — China’s national symbol — have been on the IUCN endangered list since 1990. But China has been aware of their decline since the 1960s, when the first panda reserves were established, according to the WWF. Since then, a combination of forest protection, reforestation, and strict laws against the killing of pandas allowed the panda population to recover. About 1,864 pandas live in the wild today, according to the latest survey — a 17 percent increase since 2004.
The animal’s new designation was announced alongside some negative news for other species. The eastern gorilla was moved from "endangered" to "critically endangered," as its population has declined by more than 70 percent in the past 20 years. And three species of antelope found in Africa were upgraded to "near threatened" from "least concern."
"Illegal hunting and habitat loss are still major threats"
"Illegal hunting and habitat loss are still major threats driving many mammal species towards extinction," Carlo Rondinini, coordinator of the mammal assessment at Sapienza University of Rome, said in a statement. "We have now reassessed nearly half of all mammals. While there are some successes to celebrate, this new data must act as a beacon to guide the conservation of those species which continue to be under threat."