Giant pandas are no longer endangered in China — but keeping the adorable furballs protected isn’t all black and white, officials in the country said this week.
The bamboo-munching bear was reclassified from “endangered” to “vulnerable” with 1,800 of the animals outside of captivity — after a beefed-up conservation effort helped revive their population, according to The Guardian.
The encouraging news is a result of “improved living conditions and China’s efforts in keeping their habitats integrated,” said Cui Shuhong, head of the environment ministry’s department of nature and ecology conservation.
In recent years, China has replanted bamboo forests to help provide the animals with a food source, according to officials.
Animal lovers in China took to the social media site Weibo to cheer the “Wonderful, wonderful news” — adding that, “It shows all the efforts have been paid off.”
But another observer quickly reminded people that the fight isn’t over yet.
“It’s a good start indeed, but there are still threats to these species. Do not relax,” they wrote.
The reclassification comes five years after the International Union for Conservation of Nature removed giant pandas from its endangered species list— prompting criticism from experts in China, who said the mammals were still at risk of extinction.
The pandas still face long-term threats due to climate change with more than 35 percent of their bamboo habitat expected to be destroyed in the next 80 years, IUCN has predicted.
The black-eyed bears are considered a national gem in China and have been used as a part of Beijing’s international diplomacy since the 1950s.