Should we just let the panda die out?
Last month, you may have seen on the news that the 23 giant pandas born in 2016 were revealed to the public. It was cute. So cute. I will never deny the adorableness of a collection of roly-poly balls of fluff. But as I scrolled past the endless clickbait articles about "You'll never guess what this panda did next…", I couldn't help but feel conflicted. You see, I am of the opinion that maybe these panda cubs should never have been born.
Giant pandas are a vulnerable species (until recently, they were classed as endangered) threatened by habitat fragmentation and loss in their natural range of southern and eastern China. In order to keep the giant panda species going, zoos around the world rent the pandas from the Chinese government to conduct breeding programs and the Chinese government itself has specialised panda research and breeding facilities.
Then why am I against these conservation and breeding programs?
The main reason is that the giant pandas just don't seem that interested in the survival of their species!
Female pandas are only fertile for a few days per year and if they do manage to get pregnant, they usually only have one cub. In the off chance that a panda gives birth to two cubs, it will abandon the weaker of the two. Back in the day when the panda species was thriving, this was a pretty clever move to ensure that future panda generations were as strong as possible. But now that pandas are short on numbers this is super dumb! I know the pandas probably don’t realise the stupidity of their cub-abandoning actions but still, I’m not impressed.
On top of this, the pandas often refuse to even try to get pregnant in the first place. It seems they are just not that into breeding! Researchers have tried everything from Viagra to panda porn (I'm not kidding) and often end up giving in and artificially inseminating them, which is a time consuming and labour-intensive process. As far as I'm concerned, if they refuse to screw, they deserve to be screwed.
These labour-intensive breeding programs are expensive. In order to participate in breeding programs international zoos pay up to $1 million per panda. On top of this, the Chinese government itself invests inordinate amounts of money into panda research facilities.
We are in the midst of an extinction crisis with an estimated 200 to 2000 species going extinct every year. There are quite simply other endangered species more worthy of this conservation funding.
Endangered due to oil spills, habitat degradation, and entanglement in nets and traps used by shell fishers, the sea otter is a more worthy species in need of protection. Just one thing the sea otter has over the panda is that it is a keystone species which means that the sea otter plays a vital role in maintaining its ecosystem. As an added bonus, otters have no qualms about breeding, requiring no special Viagra or breeding movies.
The sea otter has all the cute cuddly credentials to act as the new face of the conservation movement, is ecologically important, and is capable of breeding without outside intervention. All in all, the sea otter is the perfect candidate to take over conservation funding currently being wasted on the giant panda.
Sorry pandas, but as far as I'm concerned your time is up.