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Are Giant Pandas Endangered?

Panda eating bamboo

Giant pandas are currently considered to be vulnerable species threatened by constant habitat loss, negative birth rate, poaching, and habitat fragmentation. Today, strong conservational efforts are being made to save the giant panda.

Giant pandas are considered to be a national treasure in China, but they’re also very popular in Vietnam and Myanmar. Since the 1960s, there have been conscious efforts to save the panda from the authorities. These efforts have proven to be successful and since 2016, pandas are no longer endangered but only vulnerable in China.

Are Giant Pandas Still Endangered?

baby panda

Pandas are currently considered to be vulnerable, but they used to be considered endangered until 2016. This changed with the IUCN 3.1 red list of endangered animals where pandas moved from endangered to vulnerable.

This change was made because the number of pandas in the wild and zoos has stabilized to an extent. This means that there are around 1800 pandas around the world, while this number used to be much lower in the past. It took a long-term effort to stabilize the number of pandas around the world.

Pandas became endangered primarily because of human interaction with pandas. Since the early 20th century, giant pandas used to be poached by locals in China and Myanmar. The goal of these poachers was to get the fur of pandas which was considered to be highly valuable and then sell the fur to foreigners or for the domestic market.

panda bear

The problem was that this poaching continued for many decades, causing the panda populations to rapidly decrease in the coming decades. The authorities and nature conservation organizations only became aware of this after the 1960s when panda populations became critically low.

Luckily, the conservation efforts are working. Today, pandas are considered to still be vulnerable, but that is an improvement from a few years ago when they were still endangered. This means that the populations of pandas are now stable and we’ll luckily see the number of pandas increase.

Related Article: Do Giant Pandas Go Through Metamorphosis?

Why are Pandas Vulnerable?

panda bear

Pandas are still vulnerable because of different reasons. The main ones include habitat loss and fragmentation, low birth rates, and poaching.

There are several reasons why pandas are still considered to be vulnerable nowadays. Even though there have been efforts to decrease the number of pandas that die and increase the number of pandas that are born, they are still vulnerable if these efforts don’t continue in the future.

Here are the main reasons why pandas are still considered vulnerable today.

1. Habitat Loss and Fragmentation

panda bear

Perhaps the biggest and main reason why pandas are still considered to be vulnerable nowadays is because of habitat destruction. This might happen for several reasons – the most common one being deforestation, which the authorities do to increase the profits they get from selling the wood harvested where pandas live.

Pandas mainly live in bamboo forests and in the past, these forests were usually cut down because the authorities wanted to sell bamboo and other woods that were available in these forests.

This was a shortsighted tactic that hurt the panda populations around China and Myanmar. They lost their habitat or it got fragmented because of poor forest management tactics by the authorities that preferred industrialization as well as profits. It also caused a great decline in panda populations.

Read Also: Are Giant Pandas White?

2. Poaching

panda bear in tree

Another huge reason why pandas are today vulnerable is panda poaching. This was one of the primary reasons why panda populations started declining in the past. It was uncontrolled and brutal, as panda poachers looked to make great profits from selling panda fur and the products that were made of panda fur.

This was a phenomenon that happened mainly in the early 20th century and continued up until the 1960s. That’s when the authorities started paying more attention to the declining numbers of this popular gentle bear in the wild. 

Perhaps the most important development to stop panda poaching came in 1988 when the Wildlife Protection Act was introduced worldwide, prohibiting panda poaching. This act brought bans and severe punishment to those who poached pandas, which stopped the hunting to a great extent.

Today, panda poaching is not such a huge problem as it used to be, but it is still present. It is mainly illegal today, and if poachers are caught, they pay huge prices for their acts.

Related Article: What is the Color of Giant Panda?

3. Negative Birth Rate

All three types of pandas also suffer from low birth rates since some panda populations are not as fertile as they used to be. The mortality started exceeding the birth rates, which caused the panda populations to decline rapidly around the world.

This problem was solved by actively breeding the pandas and allowing them the proper conditions to enable them to breed. This was seen both in zoos as well as in the wild, but it was far more successful in controlled environments such as the zoo where the breeders can easily control the conditions where pandas breed.

Are Pandas Kept in Zoos?

Today, giant pandas can be seen in many zoos around the world. In the past, this was not possible because of the low numbers of pandas around the world.

Giant pandas were always popular animals among locals, especially in China. They have been kept in captivity since many hundred years ago. The keeping of pandas in zoos can be traced back to the Western Han Dynasty when pandas were first kept in zoos – since then, this trend has continued to be popular.

Today, pandas can be found in zoos around the world. They are kept in zoos in France, Belgium, the UK, Austria, Finland, Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands, China, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, the US, Mexico, and Canada.

Conservation Status Comparison with Other Bears

Type of BearIUCN Conservation StatusRead More
Grizzly BearsLeast ConcernAre Grizzly Bears Endangered?
Giant PandasVulnerableThis article.
Sun BearsVulnerableAre Sun Bears Endangered?
Black BearsLeast ConcernAre Black Bears Endangered?
Polar BearsVulnerableAre Polar Bears Endangered?

Go Deeper: Are Bears Endangered?

Conclusion

The giant panda continues to be one of the most popular animals in the world. However, it is still considered to be a vulnerable animal because of many external reasons, and also because of low birth rates.

Luckily, this animal is being saved by strong conservation efforts. Hopefully, we’ll continue to see an increase in the number of pandas living around the world.

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