A Chinese Zoo Is Paying People To Cuddle These Bears, And It’s Sent The Internet Into Pandemonium

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Image: Theodor Lundqvist

Native to parts of China, the giant panda serves as an international symbol of the country. However, habitat loss, poaching and an extremely low birth rate have had an adverse effect on the animals’ population. As a result, by 1976 only 1,000 giant pandas remained in the wild.

Image: Mélody P

But thanks to conservation efforts like those undertaken at Wolong National Nature Reserve, the giant panda’s future looks more positive than ever. In 2016 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reclassified the species from endangered to vulnerable.

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Image: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The move came after giant panda numbers experienced a 17% rise in the ten years leading up to 2014. It was then that a national survey found 1,864 pandas living in the wild in China. And Wolong National Nature Reserve had played its part in the population increase.

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