Close your eyes, and imagine, if you will, the one animal that symbolizes the plight of endangered species across the globe. Did you see a panda? If so, it’s no surprise, because 1) you clicked on an article about pandas, and 2) the iconic bear has been a symbol of the world’s fight against extinction for well over fifty years. Last month, the IUCN announced that dedicated conservation efforts have proven effective; the giant panda is no longer listed as endangered (it’s currently “vulnerable”). This is a huge victory for an animal that, in some circles, continues to be inappropriately criticized as “relic species.”
In light of this incredible news — and to continue conversation about a subject which is both complicated and nuanced — we set out to unpack just how a species once clinging to the brink of existence is now, if not thriving exactly, in the midst of a remarkable recovery.