China's 50-year work to increase the population of giant pandas, its most famous animals in the world, has paid off.
After creating vast reserves for them in several mountain ranges, the country finally announces that giant pandas are no longer at risk of extinction.
The care, which began in the 1970s, helped increase the population in the wild to 1,800 pandas.
Now the species will be reclassified “endangered” to “vulnerable,” explained Cui Shuhong, director of the Natural Ecological Protection Department at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, at a news conference last week.
Helped other species
To stem habitat loss, authorities have created specially designed nature reserves in areas their main food source, bamboo, is plentiful.
In 2017, the country announced plans for a reserve of 10,476 miles (ca. 16,859 km) square – three times the size of Yellowstone National Park.
“China has established a relatively complete nature reserve system […] “Large areas of natural ecosystems have been systematically and completely protected and wildlife habitats have been effectively improved,” said Cui.
“Conservation measures”, in addition to helping the giant pandas, have also contributed to populations of other species, which are gradually recovering.
“The number of species such as Siberian tigers, Amur leopards, Asian elephants and ibises has increased significantly,” he said.
Giant pandas are extremely difficult to breed and females can only get pregnant for 24 to 72 hours a year.
They are known in China as an “umbrella species” — meaning experts believe that measures to protect them help protect other species as well as the ecosystem in general.