But great apes are plummeting toward extinction…
The Giant Panda, the symbol of conservation, has been declared as no longer endangered by a group of experts on Sunday. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) now classifies the iconic animal as vulnerable on the Red List of Threatened Species after half a century of efforts to save it from extinction.
While back in 2003 it was estimated that only 1,600 Giant Pandas live in the wild, by 2014 the populations have risen by as much as 17 percent. Though it’s hard to estimate the exact number of cubs, the latest survey shows a total population of 2,060 giant pandas (1,864 of them being adults.)
“The improved status confirms that the Chinese government’s efforts to conserve this species are effective,” said the IUCN’s report. Sadly, it’s predicted that in the next 80 years more than one-third of panda’s bamboo forests will be affected by climate change and the population will decrease again. “To protect this iconic species, it is critical that the effective forest protection measures are continued and that emerging threats are addressed,” the report explained.
However, the announcement had sobering developments for some of our kin: The largest living primate, Africa’s eastern gorilla, is now critically endangered, having declined 70 percent over the past 20 years.
“We are the only one species of great ape that is not threatened with extinction,” says Carlo Rondinini, who coordinates the IUCN’s Global Mammal Assessment Program.
Poaching for wildlife trade and bush meat, as well as massive habitat destruction, has devastated most populations.
“We are eating our closest living relatives into oblivion,” says M. Sanjayan, senior scientist at the nonprofit Conservation International.