In a win for conservationists/fans of adorable animals, the giant panda is no longer listed as endangered by monitoring groups, as its numbers are increasing in the wild.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which monitors threatened species on its "Red List," announced Sunday that giant pandas were being shifted from the endangered category to being listed as vulnerable.
"Its population has grown due to effective forest protection and reforestation," the IUCN said. "The improved status confirms that the Chinese government's efforts to conserve this species are effective."
The group noted a 17% rise in the number of pandas between 2004 and 2014, when a census in China found 1,864 panda bears in the wild.
The conservation group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which has had the panda as its symbol for more than 50 years, heralded the development as "a welcome piece of good news for the world’s threatened wildlife."
"Knowing that the panda is now a step further from extinction is an exciting moment for everyone committed to conserving the world’s wildlife and their habitats,” said WWF Director General Marco Lambertini in a statement.
“The recovery of the panda shows that when science, political will, and engagement of local communities come together, we can save wildlife and also improve biodiversity."
With the WWF's help, the Chinese government has worked to build 67 nature reserves for the pandas, protecting nearly two-thirds of the animals. Special wildlife corridors also help connect the isolated populations.
To continue assisting the vulnerable animal, especially as climate change threatens the panda's bamboo habitat, the IUCN says it's critical that forests in China are protected.
“Everyone should celebrate this achievement but pandas remain scattered and vulnerable, and much of their habitat is threatened by poorly planned infrastructure projects," said Lo Sze Ping, the chief executive of WWF-China.
"And remember: There are still only 1,864 left in the wild."