Giant panda no longer an endangered species, conservationists say

The eastern gorilla is now just one step away from extinction as a result of poaching

Giant panda no longer an endangered species, conservationists say

Image: Joshua Paul / AP/Press Association Images

Conservationists say the giant panda is no longer an endangered species, following decades of efforts to save the bear.

The population status of the panda - which is native to parts of central China - has been downgraded to 'vulnerable', after a national survey found that the population had stablised generally and even increased in some areas.

Campaigners are warning that there are still risks which are likely to impact the giant panda in the future.

In a report, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said: "Whereas the decision to downlist the Giant Panda to Vulnerable is a positive sign confirming that the Chinese government's efforts to conserve this species are effective, it is critically important that these protective measures are continued and that emerging threats are addressed.

"The threat of declining bamboo availability due to climate change could, in the near future, reverse the gains made during the last two decades. The Giant Panda will remain a conservation-dependent species for the foreseeable future," it adds.

Marco Lambertini, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Director General, said: “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.

“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.”

However, the IUCN study also shows that the eastern gorilla is now just one step away from extinction.

The gorillas - which live in the forests of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, northwest Rwanda and southwest Uganda - have been classified as 'critically endangered'.

Poaching has been blamed as one of the main causes of the severe decrease in the number of gorillas in the wild.

IUCN says: "Previously estimated to number around 16,900 individuals, recent surveys show that Grauer’s Gorilla numbers have dropped to only 3,800 individuals – a 77% reduction in just one generation.

"This rate of population loss is almost three times above that which qualifies a species as Critically Endangered," they warn.