By Amanda Wilkes:
In 1970, only an estimated 1,000 Giant Pandas were left in the world. On January 23, 1984, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally declared Giant Pandas endangered, as defined by the Endangered Species Act, created in 1973. The International Union for Conservation of Nature first listed the Giant Pandas as endangered in 1990.
Giant Pandas became endangered when growing populations in Southwest China required development,
which pushed the Giant Pandas into smaller and less livable areas. The Giant Panda eats anywhere from 20-40 pounds of bamboo per day, which is already a tall order. Add limited resources to this necessity, and you can see why many of these Giant Pandas ultimately were led to starvation.
The Giant Panda usually will grow to be 4-5 ft. tall and weigh nearly 300 pounds. When they are 4-8 years old, they have reached maturity and are able to reproduce; however, reproduction can be quite difficult, considering that females have only 2-3 days in spring when they can become pregnant. Because Giant Pandas mate so infrequently and the fertility period is so short, chances for the recovery of their population is reduced.
Thankfully, precautionary measures have been taken. Now an estimated 300 Giant Pandas reside in captivity, internationally, in missions to encourage their breeding and ultimately their return to their natural habitat. Scientific breeding methods that have resulted in many successful Giant Panda cubs have made the IUCN consider downgrading the Giant Panda from “endangered” to “vulnerable.” With nearly 2,000 Giant Pandas now living in the world, we are hopeful that, with fewer threats to their protected habitats and the successful measures being taken in captivity, maybe one day the Giant Panda will no longer be considered endangered.