China objects to the decision of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to take out giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) from the endangered species list. The IUCN Red List is considered the most comprehensive inventory of plants and animals at the global level.

In the new update, the IUCN has reclassified giant pandas' status in the Red List from "endangered" to "vulnerable." The latest report of IUCN noted that there were 1,864 giant pandas in the wild, compared to 1,600, which was the population in 2004. That shows a 17 percent growth in the giant panda numbers in the wild.

The Switzerland-based body then commended China's efforts at conservation and in contributing to the eventual increase of the panda population. It made special mention of China's measures such as tight regulations against poaching and adding new forest reserves for housing giant pandas.

Despite the praises, China was not amused and criticized the IUCN reclassification as a setback and asserted that the black-and-white pandas continue to be "endangered."

"If we downgrade their conservation status, or neglect or relax our conservation work, the population and habitats of giant pandas could still suffer irreversible loss and our achievements could be quickly lost," China's State Forestry Administration said.

The official Xinhua news agency said IUCN move was a hasty step and quoted Zhang Hemin, of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda.

"A severely fragmented natural habitat still threatens the lives of pandas; genetic transfer between different populations will improve, but is still not satisfactory," Zhang said.

He expressed fear that by lowering the guard on conservation efforts, protection work will suffer and the panda population as well as their habitat will face "irreversible losses."

China's reasoning is that the wild giant pandas are facing the threat of diminishing genetic diversity. They are split into 33 isolated groups and some group had only fewer than 10 members. According to Zhang, as many as 18 sub-populations are facing "a high risk of collapse."

China's assessment is that the giant panda species could be called less endangered only when the wild population grows steadily without adding captive-bred pandas.

Marc Brody, senior adviser for conservation at the China's Wolong reserve also expressed doubts over the wisdom of IUCN's review of the pandas' status.

"It is too early to conclude that pandas are actually increasing in the wild," Brody said at the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii. He added that no justifiable reason is in sight to downgrade the listing from endangered to "threatened."

Meanwhile, the ABC from Australia said the good news for pandas may not last as a warming planet from excessive fossil fuel burning may wipe out one-third of the pandas' bamboo habitat in the coming decades.

"The concern now is that although the population has slowly increased — and it is still very small — several models predict a reduction of the extent of bamboo forests in China in the coming decades due to climate change," Carlo Rondinini, a mammal assessment coordinator at the Sapienza University of Rome, told reporters.

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