HONG KONG – Giant pandas are no longer an endangered species, Chinese officials have said, in a massive victory for conservation efforts in the country.
The number of giant pandas living in the wild has reached more than 1,800, meaning the species has been reclassified as “vulnerable,” Chinese officials said earlier this week.
The new classification comes after Beijing “has carried out major activities and measures to protect biodiversity and achieved remarkable results,” Cui Shuhong, head of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, told a conference on Wednesday. Press.
It is notoriously difficult to breed pandas in captivity and in the wild.
He also credited the enhanced surveillance of law enforcement and a major crackdown on illegal activities in nature reserves.
Experts say China has succeeded in preserving the animals, considered a national symbol, by taking measures that allow humans and pandas to coexist.
Becky Shu Chen, technical advisor at the Zoological Society of London, pointed out in a phone interview that most nature reserves are so huge that there are still human villages populated inside.
She credited the Chinese government with teaching villagers agricultural activities that did not destroy the panda’s natural habitat, such as in Changchun, the home of a panda zoo, where locals sold “panda honey.” “.
The villagers “protected the house from the pandas, which is one of the reasons they are now downgraded to ‘vulnerable’,” Chen said.
In China, the giant panda has long been considered a national treasure and has been a protected species since the implementation of the Wildlife Conservation Law in 1958.
Beijing has also been engaged in “panda diplomacy” for decades, loaning these cuddly-looking creatures to zoos around the world, from the United States to Russia, as a gesture of friendship.
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This is not the first time that the species has been reclassified. In 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reclassified animals from “endangered” to “vulnerable” on the global list of endangered species.
Chinese authorities bristled at the time, saying the animals were still under threat and conservation efforts were not yet at a point where they could be released.
Chinese social media users were pleased with this week’s news, saying it was not only proof that conservation efforts had paid off, but also an indication of China’s economic success.
“With our country getting richer and richer, we have money to spend on protecting the environment and animals, just like what Western countries have done,” wrote one person on Weibo, the platform of China’s most popular social media.