A Chinese census found 1,864 pandas currently living in the wild.
A win for wildlife conservation took place last week as China declared that panda bears were no longer endangered.
In a press conference on July 7, the head of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment's Department of Nature and Ecology Conservation Cui Shuhong credited the exciting development to the increased preservation efforts the country has undertaken since the 1970s. According to a census taken each decade, there are currently 1,864 pandas living in the wild. This is a major improvement for the black-and-white bear, which numbered only 1,596 back in the 2003 census.
"The panda population in the wild has risen to about 1,800, which reflects their improved living conditions and China's efforts in keeping their habitats integrated," Shuhong said.
Much of its progress can be attributed to sanctuaries like the Giant Panda National Park in Sichuan, where over 80-percent of the nation's bears reside. Programs have also been implemented to involve the public in the conservation process, including training citizens as park rangers and relocating homes out of panda habitats.
There's also the National Zoo in Washington, DC, which maintains a breeding program for pandas as part of a partnership between the two countries. The bears are born and raised in DC before relocating to China upon their 4th birthday, and the historic relationship has given way to cubs including Bao Bao, Bei Bei, and the latest addition Xiao Qi Ji, who was born last year during the pandemic.
Pandas were previously categorized as "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which moved them up from "endangered" in 2016. While Chinese officials expressed concern due to the uncertainty surrounding the bear's status, the recent news marks confirmation of the species' rise in the region.
Thankfully, pandas aren't the only species thriving. Animals like the Asian Elephant and Siberian Tiger have also seen an uptick in numbers, which gives hope to officials prioritizing solutions that respect the lives of animals in an ever-expanding world.
"Nowadays in China, there is a code of conduct among the government and people to respect and protect nature," Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.
Have you ever seen a panda in person before? Tell us about your experience in the comments.