An article from the always-interesting Christmas issue of The Economist provides an update on the state of the panda: covering captive and wild populations, as well as new scientific thinking about what caused their endangerment. Pandas are widely cited as a truly hopeless animal. They are inept at and uninterested in reproduction, with females only fertile for 3-4 days a year anyhow. They are also only willing to eat a single food that is thoroughly lacking in calories and dies off en masse at regular intervals.
That said, captive populations seem to be on the rise thanks to better breeding techniques, while policies intended to prevent floods caused by deforestation have served indirectly to protect some wild habitat. It seems that despite their challenges – both natural and man-made – pandas will prove charismatic enough to endure.