• Panda downlisted but not out of the woods

      Swaisgood, Ronald R.; Wang, Dajun; Wei, Fuwen (2018)
      The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is no longer Endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) storied Red List. The decision to downlist the panda to Vulnerable has its foundation in a systematic assessment of population parameters as determined by China State Forestry Administration's circa decadal national survey and other scientific outputs, compared to standardized criteria used by IUCN to determine the status of all species. This decision has not been without controversy and disagreement, perhaps reflecting disparities between how people view the term “Endangered” and the criteria established by the IUCN. Here, we explore the architecture of recovery of this iconic “Endangered” species, make transparent the process of the IUCN downlisting decision, evaluate emerging threats to pandas on the horizon, and contemplate the meaning of this milestone for endangered species conservation. Through this revelation, we find profound reasons for hope for species conservation everywhere, and a useful example of success in the making. However, this positive message comes with measured caution. The Chinese government and conservation community must maintain its focus and investment on panda conservation, and contend with strategies to address new threats. If they do not, the panda will return to “Endangered” status once again.