Giant Pandas Taken Off China's Endangered Species List

China has announced that giant pandas are no longer an endangered species, thanks to successful breeding efforts.

With more than 1,800 pandas currently in the wild, the beloved animals have now been re-designated as a “vulnerable species.”

“China has established a relatively complete nature reserves system,” Cui Shuhong, director of the Department of Natural Ecological Protection of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, said at a press conference, CNN reported. “Large areas of natural ecosystems have been systematically and completely protected, and wildlife habitats have been effectively improved.”

Video: Chinese officials say giant pandas are no longer endangered (USA TODAY)

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Although the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) took giant pandas off the endangered list in 2016, it took another five years for China’s environmental ministry to mirror the move.

Over the past few years, however, other endangered species populations in China have begun to grow as well, including Siberian tigers, Amur leopards, Asian elephants, and crested ibis.

Since the 1970s, China has been developing its giant panda breeding program. Giant pandas are notoriously hard to breed because females can only become pregnant once a year for a period of anywhere from 24 to 72 hours. As part of its program, China has created nature reserves across the country.

In 2017, China announced its plans to build a 10,476-square-mile nature reserve (about three times the size of Yellowstone National Park) called Giant Panda National Park. When completed, the park will hold about 80% of China’s giant panda population and provide the animals better access to food supplies (with lots of bamboo), as well as protect thousands of other species in the area. It has not yet been decided how, or even if, tourists will be able to visit the national park.

Giant pandas are a national symbol of China and, in 1961, became the first species that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) sought to protect. Since then, the animals have also become a symbol of species conservation itself.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.

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