It was recently reported in the news that the giant panda is no longer endangered. While this is fantastic news, and a huge triumph for conservation, what does this actually mean – and what’s the truth behind this story?
Animals are classified via endangered status on the ‘Red List of Threatened Species’ created by the IUCN: The International Union for Conservation of Nature. This list acts as a scale upon which the ‘vulnerability’ of a species is categorised, ranging from ‘Extinct’ to ‘Least Concern’ while including ‘Critically Endangered’ and ‘Vulnerable’ on the way. Recently, conservation efforts in China have helped to change the classification of the Giant Panda from ‘Endangered’ – however they are now classified as ‘Vulnerable’. Although this is a massive achievement, there is still always more to do – as is too often the way with conservation! Especially when you look at all the other animals that are still endangered, critically endangered or even extinct in the wild.
When looking at the official IUCN Red List website, the first page displays ‘species assessments 1-50 of 82954 in total’ – a staggering amount of animals that are classified somewhere along this spectrum; few are likely to be ‘Data deficient’ or ‘Not evaluated’, suggesting that most species may well be facing some kind of conservation crisis. Some examples currently being channelled into mainstream media are the eastern gorilla and the mountain chicken, a species of frog. Eastern gorillas live in forests near to mountains in countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. Reported numbers of this subspecies estimate a population size of around 700; a worrying prospect. However, the situation for the mountain chicken frog is even worse: there are estimated to be 88 wild individuals left in Dominica and Montserrat (islands in the Caribbean) combined. The gorillas are largely affected by habitat destruction and the bush meat trade, while the mountain chicken is susceptible to chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease that is having widespread and devastating effects on amphibians across the world.
From looking at other threatened animals it is clear that there’s a multitude of threats across the world that need addressing by conservationists and the general public alike. While the success of the work to help the giant panda should be celebrated, we should also remember that they are still at risk – meaning we can’t rest on our laurels and shouldn’t forget that other, less enigmatic, animals are still in danger too. There is still always more that can, and should, be done!