Saturday, 10 August 2013
Unthinkable? Stuff the pandas
Not my words but those of a piece in the Guardian Opinion column today. Judging from the hundreds of on-line comments, it has certainly touched a nerve. Most people are on the side of the cuddly pandas - I've already given you my view of them (here) so you won't be surprised to learn that I side with the (more sensible!) minority on this one. Here's the piece in its entirety - read it and make your own mind up.
Endangered animals, please note: if you want to be saved, get a furry face. As it was announced yesterday that Edinburgh zoo's giant panda, Tian Tian, "may be" pregnant, the usual lip service was once again paid to an animal that resists viability like no other. In choosing to eat bamboo, a foodstuff that it barely has the ability to digest, the panda only extracts 20% of the energy available from its meals (compared to 60 to 90% in carnivores). When not being metabolically ridiculous, they pad off for artificial insemination, as in Tian Tian's case, due to a general reluctance to procreate. The giant panda is, in short, a giant evolutionary mishap. One that sentimentality is obsessed by while funds are disproportionately ciphered away from the other 20,933 species facing extinction. Far from the cameras and cuddly toy stores, birds and bees flounder, but don't get a look in next to the wistful gazes of their fluffy animal cousins. That goes most of all for plants. Who speaks up for the cypress, the fir, the conifer? Yet, according to the latest update from the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list of threatened species last month, 34% of these species, some of the oldest and largest living on earth, are facing extinction. Yet their forests remove three times more carbon from the atmosphere than their temperate or tropical counterparts, and they support a host of animal life. If humans wish to live responsibly and sustainably, conservation is vital; but let's look to ecology rather than cuteness for where to put our money.