Giant pandas are no longer endangered but remain vulnerable, China officials say

Giant pandas have been downgraded from endangered to vulnerable, after their population in the wild reached 1,800, officials in China have said.

The animals were first reclassified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2016, when it removed the giant panda from its endangered species list.

The decision was met with backlash from Chinese officials, who argued at the time that it may lead people into believing that efforts to help increase the population could be relaxed.

The Chinese government ever since has been cautious in its welcome of the change in panda status, as they had maintained the animals were still under serious threat.

The latest classification developments "reflects their improved living conditions and China's efforts in keeping their habitats integrated", said Cui Shuhong, head of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment's Department of Nature and Ecology Conservation at a press conference.

Work involved in helping to grow the giant panda population in the wild has included expanding habitats, and recreating and repopulating bamboo forests to help ensure the animals have enough food to eat.

Beijing has also thrown its weight behind preserving the panda by investing billions in conservation.

They have also sent pandas to zoos around the world as a goodwill gesture, including to Germany, UK, Denmark and Russia.

Two were sent to the UK in 2011 - Tian Tian and Yang Guang - who are at Edinburgh Zoo where they are yet to successfully mate.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature warned that although better forest protection has helped increase panda numbers, climate change poses at threat to the animals natural bamboo habitat.

It is predicted to decline by 35% over the next 80 years.

Animals at Bristol Zoo will be relocated to the new Wild Place Project site for its reopening in 2024