Photo by: Craig Sellars

Craig Sellars

Giant Pandas are No Longer Endangered

By: Lucy Sherriff

After decades of work trying to save the giant panda, Chinese officials have announced the species is no longer endangered.

September 08, 2021

The pandas will be reclassified in the country from endangered to vulnerable after efforts to boost the population saw numbers rise to 1,800 in the wild.

"China has established a relatively complete nature reserves system," Cui Shuhong, director of the Department of Natural Ecological Protection of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, said at a press conference on Wednesday.

"Large areas of natural ecosystems have been systematically and completely protected, and wildlife habitats have been effectively improved."

Although they were removed from the endangered list by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2016, the decision was not seconded by Chinese officials, who opted to keep considering the animal as under threat.


Two giant pandas resting together.

Photo by: Buena Vista Images

Buena Vista Images

Two giant pandas resting together.

China considers pandas as a national treasure, but the country has also loaned them to other nations, a form of diplomacy that dates back to the 1950s. In August of this year, a giant panda on loan to France gave birth to female twin cubs. Huan Huan, who is staying at the Beauval Zoo in the south of Paris, became pregnant as a result of breeding efforts that started back in March.

The latest classification upgrade "reflects their improved living conditions and China's efforts in keeping their habitats integrated," Shuhong added.

Bamboo makes up 90% of pandas’ diets, and the animals would likely starve without the shoots. Experts believe China’s efforts to replant bamboo forests have been key to the success of the pandas’ resurgence.

The bears were once widespread throughout southern and eastern China, but due to expanding human populations and urban development, are now confined to areas that have bamboo forests.

Pandas have to eat at least 26 lbs of bamboo every day to maintain their energy, and so ensuring large swathes of bamboo forests are available is paramount to their survival.

"The Chinese have done a great job in investing in panda habitats, expanding and setting up new reserves," Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of conservation at the World Wildlife Fund, told the BBC.

Bamboo forest in Kyoto, Japan.


Bamboo forest

Photo by: Karl Hipolito

Karl Hipolito

Bamboo forest

"They are a wonderful example of what can happen when a government is committed to conservation.”

Planting bamboo also has advantages for the planet, as the shrub is a grass, not a tree, and is incredibly efficient at absorbing carbon dioxide, as well as emitting 35% more oxygen than trees.

Continuing China’s success will be dependent on the country protecting land from agricultural and urban development. As land becomes more scarce, measures will need to be extended to protect more land, to ensure bamboo forests can thrive–and as a result, secure the future of the world’s most loveable, and lazy, monochrome creature.

Next Up

The Oldest Complete Fish Fossil was Discovered Thanks to Kung Fu

Back in 2019, three Chinese paleontologists were playfighting during a break from working in the Chongqing Province, China. One was kung-fu kicked into a rocky outcrop, causing rubble to tumble down and exposing an opening in the rock face. Inside, a spectacular fossil lay undisturbed, preserved for millions of years.

Why the Long Face? Extinct Headbutting Relatives Reveal Giraffes' Neck Evolution

Pioneered by Darwin, giraffes have been used as a classic example of how animals adapt and evolve. Giraffe’s long-neck evolution has long been attributed to foraging for sustenance in the high canopy, now researchers argue that selection for head-butting combat played a role in the long length of giraffe necks.

Manatee’s Cousins Have Vanished from the Ocean

Dugongs, the peaceful ‘sea cows’ of the ocean have been declared functionally extinct in China. The vegetarian mammal has vanished from the coastlines of Asia and Africa.

There is Hope for the Future of Polar Bears Threatened by Climate Change

Scientific researchers have recently identified a sub-population of polar bears in southeastern Greenland that survive by hunting on glacial slush. The discovery of their unique behaviors is helping scientists understand the future of this species whose habitats are threatened by climate change.

Baby Bear Takes a Trip on Hallucinogenic ‘Mad Honey’

A bear cub was rescued in Turkey after passing out from eating too much hallucinogenic honey.

Are Whale Sharks Now the World’s Largest Omnivore?

A new study finds that whale sharks are the biggest omnivore, disproving previous research on whale sharks’ diets. Researchers were stunned when analyzing whale shark biopsy samples that contained lots of plant material as well as krill material.

Is Climate Change Killing More Elephants than Poachers?

Kenya’s Wildlife and Tourism Board has announced that climate change is now a bigger threat to elephant populations than poaching. Kenya is currently facing an extreme drought that is threatening the livelihoods of people and wildlife within the area.

Galápagos Giant Tortoises Are Mysteriously Turning Up Dead in Ecuador

Despite the tough protections, there has been a spate of tortoises killed in recent months, and officials fear the animals have been slaughtered for their meat.

Do Dolphins Have a New Skin Care Routine?

A new study on Indo-Pacific bottle-nosed dolphins reveals that pods might rub themselves on coral as a way to keep their skin healthy.

Two Orcas Are Hunting Great White Sharks in South Africa

A killer whale duo has been killing great white sharks off the Gansbaai coast, causing them to flee the area. These orcas have developed a taste for shark livers, transforming the local marine ecosystem.

Related To: