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FILE - In this Aug. 23, 2016 file photo, a giant panda named Nuan Nuan is shown at the Giant Panda Conservation Center at the National Zoo in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The giant panda has been reclassified as vulnerable from endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's list of endangered species, which was released Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016 at the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii. (AP Photo/Joshua Paul, File)

Giant panda no longer endangered as eastern gorillas slip closer to extinction


As one species celebrates increased numbers, another is slipping closer and closer toward extinction. 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said in a report released Sunday that the giant panda is now classified as "vulnerable" rather than "endangered," because of its growing numbers in China. 

The report noted that the wild panda population jumped from 1,596 in 2004 to 1,864 in 2014. 

According to CNN, China's efforts to protect the giant panda contributed to the increase in population. The country banned trading panda skins in 1981 and the 1988 Wildlife Protection Law banned poaching. 

Although the IUCN report contained mostly positive news for the giant panda population, it warned that climate change is predicted to eliminate more than 35 percent of the animal's natural bamboo habitat in the next 80 years. 

In a statement to the Associated Press, China's State Forestry Administration disputed the classification change.

"If we downgrade their conservation status, or neglect or relax our conservation work, the populations and habitats of giant pandas could still suffer irreversible loss and our achievements would be quickly lost," the forestry administration said. 

The eastern gorilla is now critically endangered 

While the IUCN's report delivered good news about conservation efforts to increase the giant panda population, it sadly added the eastern gorilla to its list of critically endangered species, according to CNN. 

Eastern gorillas populate the mountainous region of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, northwest Rwanda and southwest Uganda. 

The IUCN report noted that hunting eastern gorillas has led to a population decline of more than 70 percent in the past 20 years. 

"This illegal hunting has been facilitated by a proliferation of firearms resulting from widespread insecurity in the region," the IUCN said in a report. "This rate of population loss is almost three times above that which qualifies a species as critically endangered."

This change in status, from endangered to critically endangered, means that four great apes are now critically endangered, according to CNN.

The eastern gorilla, western gorilla, Bornean orangutan and Sumatran orangutan are all listed as critically endangered. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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