The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reduced the threat status of the giant panda from “endangered” to “vulnerable” in September 2016. In this study, we analyzed current practices for giant panda conservation at regional and local environmental scales, based on recent reports of giant panda protection efforts in Sichuan Province, China, combined with the survey results from 927 households within and adjacent to the giant panda reserves in this area. The results showed that household attitudes were very positive regarding giant panda protection efforts. Over the last 10 years, farmers’ dependence on the natural resources provided by giant panda reserves significantly decreased. However, socio-economic development increased resource consumption, and led to climate change, habitat fragmentation, environmental pollution, and other issues that placed increased pressure on giant panda populations. This difference between local and regional scales must be considered when evaluating the IUCN status of giant pandas. While the status of this species has improved in the short-term due to positive local attitudes, large-scale socio-economic development pressure could have long-term negative impacts. Consequently, the IUCN assessment leading to the classification of giant panda as “vulnerable” instead of “endangered”, should not affect its conservation intensity and effort, as such actions could negatively impact population recovery efforts, leading to the extinction of this charismatic species.
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