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Giant panda off the endangered species list

Smithsonian's youngest giant panda cub Bei Bei makes his public debut following his birth last August at the National Zoo in Washington on January 16, 2016. (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images)

Smithsonian’s youngest giant panda cub Bei Bei made his public debut at the National Zoo in Washington on January 16, 2016. There are fewer than 1,900 giant pandas in the wild. (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images)

The giant panda is no longer endangered, a group that monitors conservation efforts announced Sunday.

Their population has grown enough to shift their categorization from the endangered category to vulnerable status, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The giant panda population rose 17 percent from 2004-2014.

“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, director of the World Wildlife Fund.

Conservationists and the Chinese government have worked to save giant pandas and their habitat for years. They built 67 nature reserves, which now protect nearly two-thirds of the bears.

But they aren’t in the clear yet – climate change is predicted to destroy more than 35 percent of the panda’s bamboo habitat in the next 80 years. There are only 1,864 giant pandas left in the wild.

“To protect this iconic species, it is critical that the effective forest protection measures are continued and that emerging threats are addressed,” IUCN said in its announcement. “The Chinese government’s plan to expand existing conservation policy for the species is a positive step and must be strongly supported to ensure its effective.”