USA GIANTA PANDA BIRTHS.jpg
A handout photo released by Zoo Atlanta shows giant panda mother Lun Lun with the first of her two cubs born at the zoo in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 03 September 2016.
Photograph: EPA/ZOO ATLANTA / HANDOUT

Pandas are no longer endangered but remain “vulnerable”, according to the world's largest environmental decision-making forum.

The giant panda was reclassified from endangered to merely a "vulnerable" species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species released at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii Sunday.

For more than 20 years pandas seemed to symbolize all endangered species even as their numbers were rebounding through effective forest protection efforts by the Chinese government, IUCN said.

"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 implementation," the IUCN said.

China has expanded areas of giant panda habitat by near 12 per cent over the past decade with a total 67 nature reserves set aside, a national survey published in February 2015 showed.

The total habitat area reached 2.58 million hectares at the end of 2013, 72.4 per cent of which is suitable for the bears, according to data released by China's forestry authority.

Climate change threatens to eliminate more than 35 per cent of the vulnerable animal's bamboo habitat in the next 80 years, the IUCN warned, reversing gains of the last two decades.

Some 1,864 wild pandas live in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, a 2015 survey found.

The three-year study found that 319 hydropower plants, 1,339 kilometres of roads, 268 kilometres of high-voltage transmission lines, 984 new residential areas, 479 mines and 25 tourist attractions also threaten the bears' ability to reproduce and thrive.

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