Giant pandas 'no longer endangered species'

The giant panda is no longer endangered, according to experts, thanks to aggressive conservation efforts.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said the panda should no longer be classified as "endangered", but "vulnerable" instead.

In a report published on Monday, they cited the growing number of pandas in the wild in southern China - which jumped from 1,596 in 2004 to 1,864 in 2014.

The IUCN hailed the work of Chinese agencies who helped wild panda populations grow by enforcing poaching bans and expanding forest reserves.

Giant panda Le Le chews on shoots and leaves in Hong Kong Credit: Reuters

However they also warned climate change could eliminate 30% of its natural bamboo habitat in the next 80 years, potentially leading to another decline.

The panda population reached an estimated low of 1,000 in the 1980s due to deforestation and poaching, before officials protected its forest areas and cracked down on the skin trade.

The black and white bear is seen as a symbol of China and the global conservation movement, with the animal being sent to zoos around the world as a gesture of Chinese diplomatic goodwill.

The World Wildlife Fund, whose logo has been a panda since 1961, established the Wolong National Nature Reserve in south China in the 1980s to help protect the animal.

They celebrated the panda's re-classification and said aggressive investment pays off "when science, political will and engagement of local communities come together".