Thanks to an increase in available habitat, the population of the giant panda rose 17% from 2004 to 2014, leading the IUCN to downgrade it from endangered to vulnerable. A nationwide census in 2014 found 1,864 giant pandas in the wild in China, up from 1,596 in 2004, the IUCN said in its report on the animal.
Revered in Chinese culture, the giant panda was once widespread throughout southern China.
Since the 1970s, it has been the focus of one of the most intensive, high-profile campaigns to recover an endangered species, after a census by the Chinese government found around 2,459 pandas in the world — proof of its precarious position, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
China banned trading panda skins in 1981, and the enactment of the 1988 Wildlife Protection Law banned poaching and conferred the highest protected status to the animal. The creation of a panda reserve system in 1992 increased available habitats; today, there are 67 reserves in the country that protect 67% of the population and nearly 1.4 million hectares of habitat. Read more