Chinese officials on Wednesday announced that giant pandas are no longer endangered after their population in the wild has increased to 1,800 following decades of efforts to preserve the species.
With its larger population, the species will be re-classified as vulnerable, Cui Shuhong, director of the Department of Natural Ecological Protection of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, said during a press conference, according to CNN.
For nearly half a century, China has made efforts to increase the giant panda population by creating several reserves in mountain ranges across the country.
The species was removed from the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s endangered list in 2016, but Chinese officials reportedly did not agree with the decision at the time.
“China has established a relatively complete nature reserves system,” Cui said on Wednesday, according to the news outlet. “Large areas of natural ecosystems have been systematically and completely protected, and wildlife habitats have been effectively improved.”
Cui also noted that other endangered species in the country have seen an increase in their numbers.
“The number of species such as Siberian tigers, Amur leopards, Asian elephants, and crested ibis has increased significantly,” he said.
Giant pandas have been known to be difficult to breed as female pandas only have a 24- to 72-hour period to become pregnant each year.
Chinese officials have worked to increase their numbers and prevent habitat loss for the animals since the 1970s. The country recognizes the panda as an umbrella species, in which experts say that protecting them will ultimately serve to protect other species and the larger ecosystem as well, according to CNN.
Despite those efforts, some carnivore populations have plummeted in recent decades as a result, which could create a risk for the larger ecosystem, according to a study
released by a joint China-United States team last year.