China's giant panda population is on the rebound

After decades of population decline, China's giant pandas are on the rise again, thanks in large part to Chinese species-conservation efforts, Chinese media reported last week.
By Rick Docksai | Aug 21, 2018
China's giant pandas are coming back from the brink of extinction, with more than 40% as many bears alive today and nearly twice as much protected natural habitat versus a decade ago, Chinese state media reported last week. Chinese officials gave the credit to ongoing national programs to protect and preserve the much-beloved mammal.

According to state media service Xinhua, officials from the National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA) told a conference Thursday that 1,864 pandas now inhabit the wilds of China, up from 1,114 a decade ago. The officials reported that panda habitat areas have almost doubled in that time frame to around 2.6 million hectares, with plans to build another 27,000-square-kilometer park for giant pandas now under way.

"The endangered status of the giant panda was further eased," said NFGA official Yang Chao, as reported by Chinese state media service Xinhua. Yang added that government protections now cover two out of every three of China's wild pandas.

Xinhua quoted Yang as also saying that an additional 518 pandas are living in captivity, according to Yang. He said that Chinese conservationists have released nine captivity-born pandas into the wild since 2003, of which seven have survived.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature affirmed that China's efforts are paying off and recently changed the giant panda's risk classification from "endangered" to "vulnerable," according to the Asia Times. The Times noted that this conservation organization previously China's efforts in a 2016 paper in which it said that the panda population had started to increase.

Giant pandas' numbers dwindled last century due to habitat loss and hunting. Making matters worse, according to conservationists, it is exceptionally difficult to successfully breed pandas in captivity.

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