When you think of the World Wildlife Fund and you think of an organisation that is synonymous with conservation, preservation, restoration and a thousand other epic things all ending in -tion.
The WWF has goals, plans, strategies and dreams and promote environmental and ecological awareness.
Which is why their choice of a giant Panda for a logo annoys me.
I understand that the giant Panda is a complex creature, an oddly picky eater with 99% of its diet consisting of bamboo derived delicacies (stems, shoots and leaves), and due to their size require huge amounts of food to sustain themselves.
Bamboo is almost like celery’s slightly beefed-up cousin as it delivers a value of nutrition so ridiculously low that a Panda has to eat for at least 14-hours a day to get the calories that they need to survive.
Sadly, due to habitat loss caused by the areas high population explosion and expansion demands, huge areas of bamboo forest have been cleared to make way for humans, minimising the amount of available food available for this delicate creature.
Estimates say that there are only around 1600 Pandas left in the wild, with a further 200 living in captivity, and so there’s a flurry of activity to conserve existing numbers in the wild and boost numbers in captivity in order to reintroduce stock to the wild.
This is where I begin to have issues with the Panda.
They seem to have embraced their fate in an almost Marvin the Paranoid Android approach, having the view that, “I’ve calculated our chance of survival, but I don’t think you’ll like it,” and having “…a million ideas that all point to certain death.“
Pandas just don’t make sense as they don’t appear to be adapting to suit their situation or focusing on breeding a line of super Pandas that can eat burgers and pizza.
The only reason we seem to be throwing a mother-load of money into conserving them is because they are cute, fat and clumsy which combines to make us go awwww and feel good about ourselves because caring for cuteness is hardwired into our DNA. If we truly cared about our planet, the level of cuteness that any one animal displayed shouldn’t have such a huge impact on the effort, energy and donations contributed to conservation.
Zoologist Lucy Cooke (The Amphinian Avenger) has been working hard to raise the profile of the less than gorgeous and frequently overlooked animals. Her blog promotes their plight, dedicating it to, “…the ugly, the freakish and the unloved animals that are perilously ignored thanks to the tyranny of cute.”
Asian countries aren’t really doing anything to reduce the traditional medicine supply and demand for Rhino horn (Africa and India), Lion bone (Africa), Tiger parts (India), however everyone seems oddly keen to promote and conserve tourist-drawing Pandas in an odd double standard, although I wouldn’t give much for the Panda’s chances of survival if some random part of their body was valued as a natural cure for something fertility-related.
It’s probably a good thing that Panda’s appear to have a monkish disinterest in sex, otherwise Panda soup would be a big part of natural remedies.
Even in Zoos and Conservation Centres, scientists have been forced to give them Viagra, turn on the Barry White, dim the lights and show them videos of other Pandas engaged in the physical act of luuuuuurve in an attempt to heat up the mood.
They do seem to be an almost comically useless animal: fat butterballs that show no sign of diet variation even in the face of dwindling vegetation, slow and lazy due to the lack of nutrients in their bamboo diet which causes low energy levels, with no real interest in sex and doing their bit for the species. In the rare instance of successful copulation they consequently show themselves to be useless at parenting as the male disappears and the female gets easily distracted and keeps on forgetting to care for and nurture her young.
They are the exotic equivalent of sheep, another animal that is born with a lack of interest in life but has markedly better reproduction rates (in no small part due to our interest in their deliciousness and financial value).
So, to conclude, a huge thank you to the WWF bumper sticker that I was stuck behind in soul crushing stop/start traffic this morning that massively influenced this anti-panda rant and also a request to all of you guys to not forget to do your bit for the less-than photogenic animals that make the endangered lists each year.