Pandas seem to be recovering in the wild

We’re not like those panda fetishists who flip out about the cute, cuddly black-and-white bears, with their snoogly faces and their roly-poly schnugum wugums … wait, where were we? Anyway, we’ve got some good news for panda fans: A recent census found almost 1,600 giant pandas in the wild, well up from an estimated 1,000 in the 1980s. It might just be a reflection of better counting methods, some experts say, but also suggests that panda numbers have at least stabilized. The Chinese government has stepped up protections and expanded panda preserves — perhaps mainly to score global prestige points, but hey, whatever works. Still, the situation remains fragile, caution pandaphiles. “By taking that much land away from the people, there will be lots of people and land conflicts,” said John Ouellette, a panda researcher at the Memphis Zoo. But “it’s an exciting time. There are lots of possibilities.”