Giant pandas are no longer considered an endangered species in China, officials announced this week.
China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment confirmed that the country’s population of giant pandas in the wild has increased to over 1,800. The animals are now classified as “vulnerable” instead of “endangered.”
China has spent decades backing efforts to boost the panda population. The country banned trading panda skins and poaching the beloved animals in the 1980s.
China has also created expansive nature reserves in an effort to protect panda habitats.
Cui Shuhong, director of the Department of Natural Ecological Protection of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, told reporters on Wednesday that the panda population growth can be credited to China’s reserves.
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Cui added that other species have also seen population increases amid the conservation efforts in the country, including Siberian tigers, Asian elephants and more.
The giant pandas were initially moved off of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list of endangered species in 2016, but the announcement was not embraced by Chinese officials.
“If we downgrade their conservation status, or neglect or relax our conservation work, the populations and habitats of giant pandas could still suffer irreversible loss and our achievements would be quickly lost,” the forestry administration told the Associated Press at the time. “Therefore, we’re not being alarmist by continuing to emphasize the panda species’ endangered status.”