Their status has been updated to “vulnerable,” Cui Shuhong from China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment said Wednesday, China’s state-run news agency Xinhua reports.
There are now 1,800 giant pandas living in the wild, a number that officials credit to the country’s devotion to maintaining nature reserves and other conservation initiatives in recent years. As a result, other species have also flourished: Siberian tigers, Asian elephants, and crested ibises have all seen a gradual increase in population numbers, according to the outlet.
Internationally, the giant panda has been considered “vulnerable” for five years. The International Union for Conservation of Nature removed giant pandas from its list of endangered species in 2016 — a decision that Chinese officials challenged at the time.
“If we downgrade their conservation status, or neglect or relax our conservation work, the populations and habitats of giant pandas could still suffer irreversible loss and our achievements would be quickly lost,” China’s State Forestry Administration told The Associated Press at the time. “Therefore, we’re not being alarmist by continuing to emphasize the panda species’ endangered status.”