Good news, everyone! The giant panda has been officially taken off the endangered species list, thanks to an amazing 17-percent growth in its population in the last decade or so. According to the officials at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the adorable animal, native to parts of China, is currently being described as “vulnerable”.
Back in 2009, China’s fast-dwindling giant panda population led many researchers to conjecture that it could go completely extinct within three generations. In recent years, however, the country’s government has actively made changes to better the situation. At present, the nation boasts 67 well-protected panda reserves that are in turn home to around two-thirds of the animal’s global populace. IUCN’s updated Red List now states:
Evidence from a series of range-wide national surveys indicate that the previous population decline has been arrested, and the population has started to increase… The improved status confirms that the Chinese government’s efforts to conserve this species are effective.
Based on surveys conducted till 2014, the number of giant pandas in the world has increased by an impressive 17-percent over the last 10 years or so. As pointed out by the officials, the current worldwide population includes approximately 1,864 adults and nearly 2,060 cubs, most of which are running around in the wild in China. John Robinson, a conservationist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, said:
When push comes to shove, the Chinese have done a really good job with pandas. So few species are actually downlisted, it really is a reflection of the success of conservation.
Experts believe that the positive change is because of China’s stringent forest protection as well as reforestation measures, thanks to which the country’s total forest cover has seen a dramatic increase in recent years. This has resulted in a proliferation of the country’s wildlife across its various bamboo forests. Speaking about the phenomenal feat, Marco Lambertini, the head of World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said:
The recovery of the panda shows that when science, political will, and engagement of local communities come together, we can save wildlife and also improve biodiversity.
The giant panda is no longer endangered, and is instead being labeled as “vulnerable”. This in itself is amazing news, especially since the animal is known to a poor breeder in captivity. This, according to scientists, is because giant pandas often lose interest in mating altogether, more so when confined to a zoo. Physiologically, the pandas are monogastric, meaning that have a single-chambered stomach unlike cows, goats or even sheep that have four-chamber stomachs.
This, coupled with an unusually short colon, makes it necessary for the giant panda to eat for up to 14 hours everyday, which amounts to around 12.5 kg (or 27.5 lb) of bamboo. Of this, only about 17-percent is digested. The expansion of China’s bamboo forests in recent years has, therefore, directly affected the animal’s survival rates. Before you go off to celebrate, however, take a look at what the IUCN predicts:
Although the population is currently increasing, climate change is predicted to eliminate more than 35 percent of the Panda’s bamboo habitat in the next 80 years, and thus the Panda population is projected to decline… The threat of declining bamboo availability due to climate change could, in the near future, reverse the gains made during the last two decades.
Lo Sze Ping of WWF China went on to say:
Everyone should celebrate this achievement, but pandas remain scattered and vulnerable, and much of their habitat is threatened by poorly-planned infrastructure projects. And remember: there are still only 1,864 left in the wild.
Source: World Wildlife Fund