Giant Pandas may be escaping extinction

Two baby Panda cubs.

CHINESE officials have reported that Giant Pandas may no longer be classified as endangered due to a 17 per cent rise of their population in the wild over the last decade.

A bear specialist group from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which is an organisation based in Switzerland that classifies rare species on a seven-point scale, are currently conducting a re-assessment of the animal; one of the beloved national symbols of China.

Chinese officials are hopeful that the IUCN will declare the bears no longer endangered and re-class them in the more minor extinction category as merely ‘vulnerable’, meaning that the Giant Panda is moved down on the seven point scale from ‘extinct’ to ‘least concern’.

This follows Chinese efforts to conserve and enlarge the natural habitat of the bears in the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi, which have been successful, and their number has been growing gradually for over two decades.

In the mid 1990s, there were only approximately 1,000 wild pandas; this number rose to 1,600 by 2003. The population again increased by a further 17 per cent, to 1,864 wild Giant Pandas by 2013.

The IUCN have said, however, that it is too early yet to arrive at any definitive conclusions and that no results are currently available. It is unclear when the re-assessment of the Giant Pandas will be completed.

Breeding programmes for captive Pandas have often been unsuccessful due to the animals losing all interest in mating once captured; scientists even resorted to showing pandas videos of other pandas mating. The first cub successfully born from artificial insemination was in Sichuan in 2009. 

In fact, Pandas are so popular and widely admired that they were an important part of building diplomatic relations between the Peoples Republic of China and the West during the 1970s, when loans of Pandas to American and Japanese zoos were common, coining the term ‘Panda Diplomacy’

For now, preservation of the Panda population continues to be a forerunning concern for both the Chinese Government and International animal conservation organisations.

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