The Case Against Pandas

Englishman tries to earn the ire of panda-lovers everywhere:

Conservationists should “pull the plug” on giant pandas and let them die out, according to BBC presenter and naturalist Chris Packham.

“Here’s a species that, of its own accord, has gone down an evolutionary cul-de-sac,” Packham told Radio Times magazine.

The 48-year-old believes that money spent on conserving the panda would be better invested in other animals as the species is not strong enough to survive alone.

I think that’s probably true in some kind of narrow sense. And by the same token, one might argue that it’s wrong to expend funds on restoration of architectural landmarks when the funds might be better spent improving infrastructure in poor countries. But there isn’t actually a lump sum of charitability in the universe and not hard to understand why it’s easier to raise funds for preservation of cute animals than non-cute animals. The question is whether panda-related endeavors generate a net surplus or a net deficit of funds for non-panda conservation activities. My understanding is that it’s a net positive, that programs for “flagship” famous animals help subsidize work on lesser-known species.

Still, on an individual basis I think the critique holds up. I own some stuffed pandas, I like to visit the pandas in the zoo, I used to have a panda-based Twitter icon, but personally I try to donate money to more high priority causes.