BEIJING, China — Giant pandas are no longer an endangered species thanks to conservation efforts, Chinese officials announced this week.
Cui Shuhong, the head of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment's Department of Nature and Ecology Conservation, said Wednesday that the species will be reclassified as vulnerable.
The ministry said in a statement that the removal of the giant panda from the list of endangered animals indicates that nature reserves are successfully preserving China’s biodiversity.
"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 at a press conference.
China says it has implemented several protection methods to safeguard the species, including setting up panda reserves, relocating residents from panda habitats, training local people to be rangers, and breeding pandas in captivity.
China says the International Union for Conservation of Nature announced in 2016 that the giant panda’s status had been changed from endangered to vulnerable on the Red List of Threatened Species, but the country’s wildlife authorities remained cautious about the change at that time.
At that time, they believed it was too early to remove giant pandas from the list of endangered animals based on the situation in China.
In a statement, the San Diego Wildlife Alliance, which hosted several giant pandas in the past, said it was grateful for the opportunity to help conservation efforts:
"San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance congratulates China and the amazing conservation work that has been completed by our Chinese colleagues. The work towards building a sustainable population of giant pandas under human care has contributed to the growing population and has provided pandas for reintroduction into protected areas in China.
We continue to be extremely grateful to China for sharing the giant pandas with us for more than 25 years and offering the Alliance the chance to support the conservation of this species. Our San Diego-based researchers collaborated with our Chinese colleges to learn about panda behavior, pregnancy, births, maternal and geriatric care, and also collaborated on research and conservation across China’s nature reserves. The giant panda program that China and the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance began together is an example of how successful a collaborative conservation effort can be."
Along with the panda progress, Chinese officials said the numbers of Siberian tigers, Asian elephants, and crested ibises have also grown rapidly in the country, China's state-run news agency Xinhua reports.