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BEIJING, August 16, Xinhua -- China has made significant progress in saving the giant panda thanks to continuous efforts to restore the habitat of the rare species and improve their population and genetic diversity, an official said on Thursday.

"The endangered status of the giant panda was further eased," Yang Chao, an official of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, said at a press conference.

The country has 1,864 wild giant pandas, up from 1,114 decades ago, and the number of natural reserves jumped to 67 from 15. The habitat nearly doubled to 2.58 million hectares.

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Photo taken on July 23, 2018 shows an 11-day-old giant panda cub at the Chimelong Safari Park in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province.

Around two-thirds of the giant panda's population are under effective protection, Yang said. China has initiated a plan to build a 27,000-square-kilometer national park for giant pandas.

Yang also highlighted better biodiversity. By the end of 2017, there were 518 giant pandas raised in captivity, and scientists predict the captive population could maintain 90 percent of its genetic diversity for as long as 200 years.

China has introduced nine captive giant pandas to the wild since 2003, and seven of them have survived.

The country will hold the first giant panda week from Aug. 23 to 26 to promote the cultural symbol to the world.

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