In a welcome piece of good news for the world's threatened wildlife, the giant panda has just been downgraded from 'Endangered' to 'Vulnerable' on the global list of species at risk of extinction, demonstrating how an integrated approach can help save our planet's vanishing biodiversity.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced the positive change to the giant panda's official status in the Red List of Threatened Species, pointing to the 17 per cent rise in the population in the decade up to 2014, when a nationwide census found 1,864 giant pandas in the wild in China.
Glyn Davies, Executive Director of global programmes at WWF-UK, comments:
The IUCN announcement regarding pandas is hugely encouraging news. It is a significant conservation success following years of enormous efforts on the part of the Chinese Government, communities and NGOs. This is a cause for celebration and proves that a united approach can bring a substantial difference to threatened species, even at a time of great economic growth in China.
"This success needs to be placed in the wider context of a 52 percent average decline in populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish around the globe between 1970 and 2010 as evidenced by WWF's 2014 Living Planet Report*. We now know the Eastern Gorilla has been classified as critically endangered, joining three of the other five great ape species - and this reminds us that our planet's wildlife still faces enormous threats. This is a global problem and businesses, governments and individuals must learn from the good work that has been done with pandas in China, and recognise the need to tackle the drivers of species decline.
"We need to create a world where people and nature thrive. We ignore the decline of species at our peril - as they are the barometer that reveals the impact we are having on the planet that sustains us. We need urgent action to ensure that global temperature rises caused by human activity are limited to well below 2°C, that natural habitats are protected and that we consume only as many resources as the Earth can replenish."
In 1981, WWF became the first international organisation to work in China. Ever since, WWF has been working with the government on initiatives to save giant pandas and their habitat, including helping to establish an integrated network of giant panda reserves and wildlife corridors to connect isolated panda populations as well as working with local communities to develop sustainable livelihoods and minimise their impact on the forests.
These efforts have seen the number of panda reserves jump to 67, which now protect nearly two-thirds of all wild pandas. They have also helped to safeguard large swathes of mountainous bamboo forests, which shelter countless other species and provide natural services to vast numbers of people, including tens of millions who live alongside rivers downstream of panda habitat.
After decades of work, it is clear that only a broad approach will be able to secure the long term survival of China's giant pandas and their unique habitat. It will require even greater government investment, stronger partnerships with local communities and a wider understanding of the importance for people of conserving wildlife and the landscapes in which they live.
Lo Sze Ping, CEO WWF China, said:
"This reclassification recognises decades of successful conservation efforts led by the government and demonstrates that investment in the conservation of iconic species like giant pandas does pay off - and benefits our society as well as species.
"Everyone should celebrate this achievement but pandas remain scattered and vulnerable, and much of their habitat is threatened by poorly-planned infrastructure projects - and remember: there are still only 1,864 left in the wild."
WWF's panda logo was designed by the organisation's founding chairman, the naturalist and painter Sir Peter Scott in 1961. Twenty years later, WWF became the first international organisation to work in China.
Marco Lambertini, WWF Director General, commented
"For over fifty years, the giant panda has been the globe's most beloved conservation icon as well as the symbol of WWF. Knowing that the panda is now a step further from extinction is an exciting moment for everyone committed to conserving the world's wildlife and their habitats. The recovery of the panda shows that when science, political will and engagement of local communities come together, we can save wildlife and also improve biodiversity,"
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* Living Planet Report 2014 was produced by WWF in collaboration with ZSL, the Water Footprint Network and the Global Footprint Network. The report tracks thousands of species populations and measures how the impact of the way we live our lives is affecting our environment. More information can be found at: http://bit.ly/2cmd9iN
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
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