China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment's Department of Nature and Ecology Conservation announced the news of the removal of the giant panda from the endangered species list in a press conference on Wednesday July 8, crediting the role played by Chinese nature reserves in protecting the previously threatened species and the country’s biodiversity.
The news has been heralded as showing the necessity of worldwide conservation efforts and how vital they are in preventing the extinction of animal species under threat from destruction of habitats, climate crisis and increasingly volatile weather conditions across the globe.
"The panda population in the wild has risen to about 1,800, which 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.
Spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wang Wenbin, said in a press conference on Thursday July 9 that it was “great news”:
"The concept that lush mountains and clear water are worth their weight in gold and silver has taken root among the public in China.
"Respect for, harmony with and protection of nature has become a conscious choice for all levels of government and the public.
He added: "I would also like to stress that the ecology and environment bears on the wellbeing of all humanity, and international cooperation is essential to protection efforts."
Giant pandas were moved into ‘vulnerable’, rather than ‘endangered’, status by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2016, but Chinese wildlife authorities at the time remained cautious about the threat level to the species in the country.
The UK’s only giant pandas in the UK are currently housed at Edinburgh Zoo, with female panda Tian Tian and male panda Yang Guang having been at the Zoo since December 2011 as one of the Capital’s biggest (and cutest) attractions.
The two giant pandas were brought over on a ten year loan in 2011 after the landmark deal was signed between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and the Bifengxia Breeding Centre in China – with the annual cost of hosting the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo totalling around $1million.
RZSS chief executive David Field said: “Giant pandas have long been a symbol for wildlife conservation across the globe and incredible ambassadors, raising awareness of the threats their species, and far too many others, face in the wild.
“Thanks to the work of dedicated conservationists in China and around the world, pandas are now also a symbol of hope as our planet faces a biodiversity crisis.
“When people and communities work together, we can save animals from extinction and create real change for the better.”
Mr Field added: “Tian Tian and Yang Guang play a critically important role in attracting and engaging hundreds of thousands of visitors to Edinburgh Zoo each year so more people can learn about the threats animals face in the wild and the action they can take to help.
"Their power to connect people with nature and encourage behaviour change is invaluable.”
Following the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Edinburgh Zoo issued a plea to China for financial assistance in caring for its two pandas, with their care costing the zoo’s charity owner RZSS around $35,000 a month.
With the loan due to expire this year, Edinburgh Zoo said in their latest online giant panda update that: “It is too soon to say what may happen when the contract ends at the end of the year.
"We are in discussions with our colleagues in China and will update everyone as soon as possible.”
On April 10 2021, Tian Tian was artificially inseminated for the eighth time after last giving birth to two cubs in China in 2007 and her pregnancy will only become fully confirmed if she gives birth in several months’ time.