Is Panda Conservation Worth It?

Picture by Matthew Chartier

   The panda, loved and adored by all for its cute nature, fluffy fur, and simplistic aesthetic, is one of the thousands of animals in the world that face extinction. As hundreds of wildlife conservationists frantically rush to salvage what is left of the species, it is questioned whether their efforts are truly worth the time and money.

   Extinction is seen by the majority of people as the natural toll of evolution as it takes its course on the species that are unable to keep up with their environment’s development and changes.

   An animal that is widely recognized for its extinction is the infamous dodo bird. It inhabited the Mauritius island in the Indian Ocean and lived in tranquility for so long that it eventually lost the capability of flight. Later on, when discovered by Dutch sailors, the birds were flightless, slow, and fearless to humans and other animals. This made it an easily exploited animal, the main cause of its extinction. Judging by that, perhaps it was for the best that these underdeveloped dodo birds became extinct.

   With billions of dollars invested towards the conservation of animals, one may question whether the astounding abundance of money is being put into good use. According to Scientific American, the Endangered Species Act spent more than 1.7 billion USD on the conservation of animals.

   Ways that conservationists attempt to rescue endangered animals are inefficient and disputed. One way that humans salvage animals is by capturing them and keeping them in captivity until they are healthy enough to survive in the wild. This process can take years upon years to accomplish and could unintentionally domesticate the animal. Another more controversial way is through incest and cloning. All of these require heavy funding.

   Now although the panda is widely acclaimed and loved by all, what use is the panda other than its cute and endearing nature?

   Pandas spend ten to sixteen hours consuming about twenty-eight pounds of bamboo every day, which has a very low nutritional value. Pandas are forced to migrate to different elevations to access various bamboo species during the height of their nutrition. The constant need of movement and the lack of nourishment that the bamboo provides makes the panda’s feeding a struggle. One could easily determine the panda to be underdeveloped; however, environmentalists and panda conservationists insist that the panda is worth the time and effort.

   Some argue that pandas should be conserved because they help spread seeds through their feces as they roam, which in turn maintains the environment. However, the tapir, an animal also threatened by extinction, spreads seeds too, yet it receives little to no publicity. So why does one of these animals receive millions of dollars in funding while the other is ultimately unheard of? It is because of our bias towards the panda’s darling appearance that we neglect and discriminate against other animals in need. A suggestion to the reader is to search the appearance of the tapir, and consider whether they would personally support this animal’s rescue.

   Panda conservation is not worth the time, money, and effort that is put into it. Extinction is a natural process, and our favoritism for the panda’s cute appearance should not influence our support for their conservation. There should instead be an implementation of a better, more beneficial option, such as also focusing on other animals or investing the money not on specific animal conservation, but rather on the protection of the environment as a whole, which would benefit more animals than just the panda.