BEIJING (AP) -- The giant panda, one of the symbols of China, is off the endangered list thanks to aggressive conservation efforts.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature said in a report released Sunday that the panda is now classified as "vulnerable" instead of "endangered," reflecting its growing numbers in the wild in southern China. It said the wild panda population jumped to 1,864 in 2014 from 1,596 in 2014, the result of work by Chinese agencies to enforce poaching bans and expand forest reserves.
Just this past weekend, a 19-year-old giant panda named Lun Lun gave birth to twin cubs at Zoo Atlanta. the mom's second set of twins. Three years ago, she had Mei Lun and Mei Huan. Both times, she was artificially inseminated.
For decades, the black-and-white bear has been a symbol of China and the global conservation movement. International groups and the Chinese government have worked to save wild pandas and breed them at enormous cost, attracting criticism that money could be better spent saving other animals facing extinction.
PHOTOS | Baby twin pandas born at Toronto Zoo
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