On September 4, 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced that the Giant Panda has come off the list of endangered species and has been instead listed as “Vulnerable“. This good news is due, in part, to the repopulation and protection efforts of such conservation centers as the Gengda Wolong China Conservation & Research Center for the Giant Panda and the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.
Previously listed as Endangered, The Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is now listed as Vulnerable, as its population has grown due to effective forest protection and reforestation. The improved status confirms that the Chinese government’s efforts to conserve this species are effective. However, climate change is predicted to eliminate more than 35% of the Panda’s bamboo habitat in the next 80 years and thus Panda population is projected to decline, reversing the gains made during the last two decades. To protect this iconic species, it is critical that the effective forest protection measures are continued and that emerging threats are addressed. The Chinese government’s plan to expand existing conservation policy for the species is a positive step and must be strongly supported to ensure its effective implementation.
Unfortunately, the announcement was not without its bad news. The report also stated that The Eastern Gorilla, the largest known living primate, has been listed as Critically Endangered due to illegal hunting and poaching.
The Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla beringei) – which is made up of two subspecies – has moved from Endangered to Critically Endangered due to a devastating population decline of more than 70% in 20 years. Its population is now estimated to be fewer than 5,000. Grauer’s Gorilla (G. b. graueri), one subspecies of Eastern Gorilla – has lost 77% of its population since 1994, declining from 16,900 individuals to just 3,800 in 2015. Killing or capture of great apes is illegal; yet hunting represents the greatest threat to Grauer’s Gorillas. The second subspecies of Eastern Gorilla – the Mountain Gorilla (G. b. beringei) –is faring better and has increased in number to around 880 individuals. Four of the six great apes – Eastern Gorilla, Western Gorilla, Bornean Orangutan and Sumatran Orangutan – are now listed as Critically Endangered, whilst the Chimpanzee and Bonobo are listed as Endangered.
Find out what the experts had to say about the @IUCNRedList update earlier today at #IUCNcongress. #species pic.twitter.com/4Ol6jUOOyt
— IUCN (@IUCN) September 5, 2016
via New Scientist