India and China got the wake-up call in 2006 and 2004, respectively. China realised that the number of giant pandas had slipped to 1,596; tiger population in India had hit an all-time low of 1,411. Loss of habitats was the primary cause behind the drop in the numbers. China plunged into saving the giant panda. By 2016, the country had a bloated population of pandas. The giant panda, a global icon, had been moved from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
Countries choose their ‘national animal’ with great care and after intense deliberation. Until 1973, ours was the lion. It was replaced by the Royal Bengal tiger when Project Tiger was started in 1973. The tiger symbolises strength, agility and power.
Since 2010, both India and China have been rescuing and conserving their national animals – the tiger and the giant panda, respectively — after a long period of neglect, resulting in alarming reductions in their populations.