The iconic giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) has just been taken off the endangered species list, following decades of rescue efforts.
According to the latest update to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the official status for the panda has changed from 'endangered' to 'vulnerable'.
Conservation efforts by China to protect their habitat and re-establish forests have seen numbers of the animal increase in the wild by 17 per cent over the last decade, and researchers believe there are now around 2000 pandas in the wild.
"Evidence from a series of range-wide national surveys indicate that the previous population decline has been arrested, and the population has started to increase," said the IUCN's report.
"The improved status confirms that the Chinese government's efforts to conserve this species are effective," it added.
The giant panda, which is China's national animal, is also the symbol for World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which described the news as 'exciting'.
“For over fifty years, the giant panda has been the globe’s most beloved conservation icon as well as the symbol of WWF. Knowing that the panda is now a step further from extinction is an exciting moment for everyone committed to conserving the world’s wildlife and their habitats,” said Marco Lambertini, WWF Director General.
“The recovery of the panda shows that when science, political will and engagement of local communities come together, we can save wildlife and also improve biodiversity,” added Lambertini.
The WWF has been working with the Chinese government establishing an integrated network of giant panda reserves and wildlife corridors to connect isolated panda populations. They have also worked with local communities to develop sustainable livelihoods and minimise their impact on the forests.
These efforts have seen the number of panda reserves jump to 67, which now protect nearly two-thirds of all wild pandas.
However, the IUCN said climate change was predicted to wipe out 35 per cent of the panda's bamboo habitat in the next 80 years.
"And thus panda population is projected to decline, reversing the gains made during the last two decades," the report said.
It added: "To protect this iconic species, it is critical that the effective forest protection measures are continued and that emerging threats are addressed."
And the news from the IUCN report is not good for the eastern gorilla, which is now 'critically endangered', meaning four out of the world's six great apes are close to extinction.