BEIJING, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- Animal conservation experts have lauded China's efforts to save the giant panda and increase its population.
Decades of conservation efforts have paid off as the giant panda was upgraded from "endangered" to "vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
The success is due to Chinese efforts to restore the panda's habitat, Craig Hilton-Taylor, manager of the IUCN Red List, was quoted by the BBC as saying.
At the end of 2015, 1,864 giant pandas were in the wild, compared with 1,100 in 2000. And 422 giant pandas were living in captivity at the end of 2015.
"The Chinese have done a great job in investing in panda habitats, expanding and setting up new reserves," said Ginette Hemley, senior vice president at the World Wildlife Fund.
"They are a wonderful example of what can happen when a government is committed to conservation," she said.
As for the downgrade of risk level, China has been cautious about it.
China's State Forestry Administration said Monday that it was too early to downgrade the giant panda's conservation status, stressing that there are still threats to the animal's survival.
The wild giant panda population is fragmented into 33 isolated groups, with some having fewer than 10 animals, which limits the gene pool for reproduction.
Meanwhile, climate change is predicted to wipe out more than one third of the panda's bamboo habitat, a situation that will be exacerbated by insufficient funding and technical support.
"If we downgrade their conservation status and our protection work is reduced, our achievements would be quickly forgotten," the administration noted.