Story by Emma Steckelberg, Reporter
Photo courtesy of Aaron Logan
In an uplifting piece of news this month, the giant panda has made its way off the endangered species list. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of threatened species, the status of giant pandas has been changed to vulnerable, alongside other species, including humpback whales.
Pandas have been on the endangered species list since the 1980s, but thanks to a conscious effort made by China and several international conservation groups, most notably the World Wildlife Fund, the population has risen 17% in the past decade. This is believed to mainly be due to forest protection and reforestation. The IUCN estimates the current population of giant pandas to be around 2,060 worldwide.
In addition to the newly recovering panda population, most humpback whales have been taken off the endangered list as well. 9 of 14 distinct populations have recovered enough in the last 40 years to be removed. These whale populations have been making steady recoveries since commercial whaling has been banned for nearly 50 years.
According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, for a species to qualify as endangered, five factors need to be considered: “1) damage to, or destruction of, a species’ habitat; 2) overutilization of the species for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; 3) disease or predation; 4) inadequacy of existing protection; and 5) other natural or manmade factors that affect the continued existence of the species.”
Unfortunately, not all species have been faring as well the giant pandas and humpback whales lately. The Eastern gorilla has been placed on the critically endangered list. According to the IUCN, its population has dropped more than 70% in the last 20 years, to fewer than 5,000 gorillas. But if anything has been learned from pandas making their way off the endangered species list, it is that there is no limit to conservation if individuals remain vigilant in their efforts to protect beloved species around the world.