Panda bears are primarily hunted for their uniquely colored pelts. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, hunting of pandas was made illegal in the early 1960s. Prior to 1997, panda poachers in China were often sentenced to death. Since 1997, the penalty for killing a panda in China has been a 20-year prison sentence.
Although pandas have likely been hunted in China for centuries, foreigners began to value panda pelts in the mid- to late 1800s. In April of 1929, the Roosevelt brothers shot a panda, becoming the first foreigners on record to commit this act. In the years that followed, pandas were exported from China to foreign countries, and were even given as gifts by the Chinese. Soon, however, panda populations began to dwindle, and China stopped letting foreigners exploit the bears in 1946. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, a law passed in 1983 increased the protective status of the panda in hopes of saving it from extinction.
Though hunting does pose a threat to the panda population, it is not the largest threat that the species must endure. BearLife.org explains that habitat destruction is the biggest threat to the panda. This unique species thrives in bamboo forests, which are continuously being replaced by farmland and housing developments.