After decades of hard work and perseverance, the giant panda population is coming back! Long considered endangered, these cuddly-looking bears are making their way back into the heart of Asia, thanks to conservation efforts by the Chinese government. Due to deforestation and the immense increase in the human population, the giant panda originally found itself on the endangered list when the bamboo forests they called home were taken away in large quantities. Since bamboo makes up 99% of their diet, the numbers dwindled as their food supply was destroyed, leaving only about 1,000 pandas left in existence. 

How did they do it?

Instead of forcing all of the existing pandas to breed in captivity (although this is a measure that is still used in dire situations), the Chinese government decided it was best to repopulate their country with bamboo once more, hoping that the pandas would come with it. To their relief, this measure worked far better than they had originally anticipated. Giant pandas now number over 2,000 (a 17% increase!) with almost all of them classified as adults. By setting up special reservation areas full of bamboo forests for the pandas to inhabit (numbering 67 currently), they have seen one of the first stories of great success in bringing an animal back from the brink of extinction, proving that conservation efforts are worth it all.

They also added a number of laws and regulations, as well as the “Giant Panda National Park System Pilot Program”, where states were responsible for helping keep the existing panda habitats safe from further harm. Education initiatives have been implemented in schools and within organizations to show just how important these kinds of actions are, and the hope is that future generations will carry on these programs in the race to save the pandas. Various individual advocates and activists are also to thank for working with the government during the development of these ideas.

two white-and-black Pandas lying on floor during daytime

Are they back for good?

Unfortunately, we can’t celebrate just yet because these herbivorous mammals are still in danger. While they are slowly making their way back into the world, climate change threatens to undo all of the conservation efforts seen in the last three decades. It is predicted that this phenomenon could wipe out over one-third of the panda population within the next 80 years, a huge detriment to the work done to protect them. In addition to that, by prematurely believing the pandas are saved and halting conservation efforts, their numbers will quickly find themselves back where they were once more, or even lower.

What can I do?

I’m glad you asked! If you love pandas as much as I do, then get that pen and paper out while I tell you how we can help keep their conservation going! As always, donating to non-profit organizations is an option. The World Wildlife Foundation even has a panda as their mascot, and it has always been one of their most eager endeavors. On their website, you can “adopt a panda” from one of many different options, receiving a variety of gifts in return. You can also lend your voice to the cause, by advocating for our country to assist the efforts to bring them back to their former glory. Whether you help from afar or join the frontlines, know that you’re making a difference for the better!