Giant pandas are no longer classified as endangered but are still vulnerable, Chinese officials say.

The classification was downgraded as their number in the wild has reached 1,800.

Experts say that the country managed to save its iconic animal through its long-term conservation efforts, including the expansion of habitats.

China considers pandas a national treasure, but have also loaned them to other countries as diplomatic tools.

The latest classification upgrade "reflects their improved living conditions and China's efforts in keeping their habitats integrated", said Cui Shuhong, head of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment's Department of Nature and Ecology Conservation at a news conference.

 

Experts have said that the success is largely due to Chinese efforts to recreate and repopulate bamboo forests. Bamboo makes up some 99% of their diet, without which they are likely to starve.

Zoos have also attempted to increase numbers via captive breeding methods.

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