Giant pandas rebound off endangered list

BBC News 5 Sep 16;

The giant panda is no longer an endangered species, following decades of work by conservationists to save it.
The official status of the much-loved animal has been changed from "endangered" to "vulnerable" because of a population rebound in China.

The change was announced as part of an update to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
But the update also brought bad news. The eastern gorilla, the world's largest primate, is now endangered.

Efforts by China, which claims the giant panda as its national animal, have brought its numbers back from the brink. The latest estimates show a population of 1,864 adults.

There are no exact figures for the numbers of cubs, but estimates bring the total number of giant pandas to 2,060.

"Evidence from a series of range-wide national surveys indicate that the previous population decline has been arrested, and the population has started to increase," said the IUCN's updated report.

"The improved status confirms that the Chinese government's efforts to conserve this species are effective," it added.

But the rebound could be short-lived, the IUCN warned. Climate change is predicted to wipe out more than one-third of the panda's bamboo habitat in the next 80 years.

"And thus panda population is projected to decline, reversing the gains made during the last two decades," the report said.

It added: "To protect this iconic species, it is critical that the effective forest protection measures are continued and that emerging threats are addressed."

John Robinson, a primatologist and chief conservation officer at the Wildlife Conservation Society, told the AFP news agency: "When push comes to shove, the Chinese have done a really good job with pandas.

"So few species are actually downlisted, it really is a reflection of the success of conservation," he told the AFP news agency."

A surge of illegal hunting has taken the eastern gorilla in the other direction, reducing its numbers to just 5,000 across the globe.

Four out of six of the Earth's great apes are now critically endangered - the eastern gorilla, western gorilla, Bornean orangutan and Sumatran orangutan.

"Today is a sad day because the IUCN Red List shows we are wiping out some of our closest relatives," Inger Andersen, IUCN director general, told reporters.

The number of eastern gorillas has declined more than 70% in the past two decades.

The IUCN Red List includes 82,954 species, both plants and animals. Almost one third, 23,928, are listed as being threatened with extinction.


Giant panda no longer 'endangered' but iconic species still at risk
WWF 4 Sep 16;

In a welcome piece of good news for the world’s threatened wildlife, the giant panda has just been downgraded from ‘Endangered’ to ‘Vulnerable’ on the global list of species at risk of extinction, demonstrating how an integrated approach can help save our planet’s vanishing biodiversity.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced the positive change to the giant panda’s official status in the Red List of Threatened Species, pointing to the 17 per cent rise in the population in the decade up to 2014, when a nationwide census found 1,864 giant pandas in the wild in China.

“For over fifty years, the giant panda has been the globe’s most beloved conservation icon as well as the symbol of WWF. Knowing that the panda is now a step further from extinction is an exciting moment for everyone committed to conserving the world’s wildlife and their habitats,” said Marco Lambertini, WWF Director General.

“The recovery of the panda shows that when science, political will and engagement of local communities come together, we can save wildlife and also improve biodiversity,” added Lambertini.

While the panda’s status has improved, other species are under increasing threat, including the Eastern gorilla, which is now listed as critically endangered primarily due to poaching.

WWF’s panda logo was designed by the organisation’s founding chairman, the naturalist and painter Sir Peter Scott in 1961. Twenty years later, WWF became the first international organisation to work in China.

Ever since, WWF has been working with the government on initiatives to save giant pandas and their habitat, including helping to establish an integrated network of giant panda reserves and wildlife corridors to connect isolated panda populations as well as working with local communities to develop sustainable livelihoods and minimise their impact on the forests.

These efforts have seen the number of panda reserves jump to 67, which now protect nearly two-thirds of all wild pandas. They have also helped to safeguard large swathes of mountainous bamboo forests, which shelter countless other species and provide natural services to vast numbers of people, including tens of millions who live alongside rivers downstream of panda habitat.

“This reclassification recognises decades of successful conservation efforts led by the Chinese government and demonstrates that investment in the conservation of iconic species like giant pandas does pay off – and benefits our society as well as species,” said Lo Sze Ping, CEO WWF-China.

“Everyone should celebrate this achievement but pandas remain scattered and vulnerable, and much of their habitat is threatened by poorly-planned infrastructure projects – and remember: there are still only 1,864 left in the wild.”

After decades of work, it is clear that only a broad approach will be able to secure the long term survival of China’s giant pandas and their unique habitat, made even harder by climate change impacts. It will require even greater government investment, stronger partnerships with local communities and a wider understanding of the importance for people of conserving wildlife and the landscapes in which they live

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