(WILDLIFE/ENDANGERED SPECIES) China’s Fourth National Giant Panda Survey recently reported a 17 percent increase over 10 years for the region’s wild giant panda population.

There are now 1,864 wild pandas recorded in China’s provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu, which are the only areas in the world where wild pandas can be found.

A reported 67 pandas are currently living in nature reserves throughout China, signifying an increase of 27 pandas since the last survey was released.

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Because pandas are so large, they only have a few natural predators: leopards, jackals, and yellow-throated martens (relatives of the weasel). Photo Credit: shop.panda.org

“The rise in the population of wild giant pandas is a victory for conservation and definitely one to celebrate,” said Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of wildlife conservation at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

“This is a testament to the commitment made by the Chinese government for the last 30-plus years to wild panda conservation. WWF is grateful to have had the opportunity to partner with the Chinese government to contribute to panda conservation efforts.”

The approximate 33.2 percent of wild pandas living outside the protected boundaries of China’s nature reserves are facing a number of threats such as large-scale habitat loss, fragmentation, poaching, illegal trade, and more, which are all testing the species’ survival.

WWF’s 2015-2025 giant panda conservation strategy is setting the bar for panda protection efforts over the next decade. The organization plans to focus on improving habitats for giant pandas in a way that will balance conservation with local sustainable development.

— Sabrina Clinkenbeard, exclusive to Global Animal