“Their black and white markings and big black eye patches make them very charismatic. There’s nothing like them in the world,” Ginette Hemley, senior vice-president for wildlife conservation at the World Wildlife Fund, (WWF) explained to the BBC.
Everybody loves pandas, cute and cuddly. And what makes panda lovers happier and more excited is that the creature has just been brought back from the brink of extinction.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) reclassified the giant panda last year from endangered to vulnerable, after their numbers rose by 17% between 2003 and 2013.
An estimated 1,864 pandas live in the wild, where the main threat is habitat loss; China wants to increase the number to 2,000 by 2025, according to the BBC.
The success is mainly due to Chinese efforts to take care of the animal and recreate bamboo forests that are the major habitat of pandas.
In 1958, China set up the first panda reserve. Now there are 67 of them where people have planted lots of bamboo so pandas can have enough fresh food.
Moreover, China is planning to create a giant panda reserve three times the size of Yellowstone national park in the US, as part of efforts to boost the wild population of the long-endangered animal.
The 10,476 square mile (27,134 square km) area will link up 67 existing panda reserves on six isolated mountain ranges in China. It is hoped the “merger” will help the pandas mingle and mate, thus enriching the gene pool, China news agency Xinhua reported.
“Taking care of pandas is a hard experience. We tidy the cages, carry bamboo and feed the pandas,” said Chen Huan who used to work as a volunteer in a panda reserve in Sichuan, China. “But the hardworking pay back when just seeing the cute bears eating and playing happily.”
Despite the improved statuses, wild animals like the giant panda still face great challenges. The IUCN warned, for example, that ongoing threats from climate change could eliminate more than 35 percent of the panda’s bamboo habitat in the next 80 years, which would reverse the species recent gains.