English naturalist Chris Packham thinks it’s time we let the panda dream go, and people are fuming.
The wildlife expert who was rated a top conservation hero thinks the millions we’ve spent attempting to preserve pandas should have been put to better use elsewhere, benefiting animals that actually have a fighting chance.
Packham believes that panda extinction is an evolutionary inevitability, that this is how it’s meant to be.
“Here’s a species that of its own accord has gone down an evolutionary cul-de-sac. It’s not a strong species.”
Some would say that Packham is only partially right to say that the panda is dying out of “its own accord.” Sure, the species has notoriously low rates of birth and mating, but we are also at fault for its dwindling numbers. After all, our destruction of panda habitats has contributed hugely to the problem.
But Packham seems to believe that our enthusiasm for panda conservation has more to do with misplaced affection than the inherent worth of the venture. The panda, he says, is:
“big and cute and it’s a symbol of the World Wildlife Fund – and we pour millions of pounds into panda conservation. I reckon we should pull the plug. Let them go with a degree of dignity.”
There are a number of species that deserve our care and attention but receive too little because they are not as immediately “loveable” as the panda: the golden poison dart frog, the addax, the pygmy three-toed sloth, the okapi, the ganges shark. Even mussels are endangered in North America.
Currently, pandas and other threatened species are being raised in captivity, with the intention of releasing them into the wild. But Packham believes these efforts are futile and shortsighted. After all, their habitats have been largely destroyed.
“Where are you going to release them?”
“You can’t release them back into the wild if there is no wild left and we shouldn’t rear animals just to put them into cages.
Although Packham has outraged a number of conservationists and assorted panda enthusiasts, the World Wildlife Fund’s Mark Wright backs up his argument. After all, the WWF itself admitted that there is no place left for the panda in the wild. Packham says his logic is sound:
“I’d eat the last panda if I could have the money we’ve spent on panda conservation back on the table for me to do more sensible things with.”
“Let them go, wave goodbye, maybe have a party or a wake. Just stop wasting money trying to save them from extinction.”
If that statement doesn’t put you on edge, get this: Packham feels the same way about tigers, which he believes won’t last two decades without our tireless yet futile support.
Maybe sometimes the damage we cause can’t be undone.