ALRIGHT MY FRIEND I have received about six messages in this vein since yesterday, but I worked for thirteen hours today and I have no time for this nonsense. Short answer: YES.
I’m gonna summarize some salient points on why pandas are awful from a conservation standpoint:
- PANDAS LITERALLY CANNOT MATE IN CAPTIVITY. IT’S UNBELIEVABLE
- Artificial insemination and hand-rearing of cubs are basically standard practice, and still they usually die. At what point is it reasonable to give up because I think we hit it DECADES AGO
- In 35 years, only 90 cubs have been born in captivity outside of China
- Wild panda numbers have increased a bare (bear?) 200 individuals in 10 years, despite literal billions of dollars being poured into conservation
- NO OTHER AREA OF ANIMAL CONSERVATION EVEN COMES CLOSE TO THE MONEY BEING POURED INTO PANDAS. NONE
- And yet we’ve managed to literally rebuild populations of black-footed ferrets, oryx, and California condors with exponentially less money
- Despite all of this, only 10 pandas have been released since the 80s, and all but two died
- I bet you wouldn’t have guessed that it’s because their habitat is destroyed and fragmentary and barely protected!!!!!!
- The only good thing about panda conservation is that protecting their range is also protecting tons of other species. Which would be great, if more of their range was being protected effectively.
- There is way more money in keeping captive pandas captive than in releasing them!! surprise!!!!!!
- Zoos pay a lot of money to get pandas on loan because people just LOVE looking at pandas and they can’t afford to house and care for their other animals without people coming to visit! Or do any kind of conservation whatsoever!! Panda-economics! (this is kind of a pro as opposed to a con but its the kind of pro that makes me feel like I need a shower)
- Pandas are endangered and sort of have a role in spreading bamboo seeds around, so they get billions of dollars. Every shark ever is MORE endangered, and without them the entire ocean ecosystem would collapse, but that’s fine they don’t need money (I’m not bitter) ((I am bitter))
I’m gonna be frank with you. We are in the middle of a mass extinction event, caused by us. Not to be a downer (jk, I’m gonna) but we’re already driving so many species to extinction that we cannot afford to save them all with the money and interest that is in conservation right now.
Instead, we have to do some kind of awful extinction triage and assess which animals will do the most good to work to conserve – and getting into keystone species, ecosystem engineers, and other truly integral species is a whole other can of worms I’m not gonna touch on – but there are animals that are “more important” in a certain sense than others, in that they can support or affect a much wider range of other species than another.
People only care about big, cute, fluffy animals – a common lament heard from conservationists, but it’s so true. There are thousands, if not millions of species that don’t fit this mold that conservation work would benefit eons more than pandas. It’s like fixing a pretty, stained-glass window in a house whose foundations are collapsing and thinking you’re helping.
Pandas have always been the face of conservation, and they continue to be one of the biggest and most expensive ongoing failures.
[Sources/ stuff to read to make sense of my incoherent response!]