Pandas – Putting The ‘Con’ In Conservation?

Why saving the joke of the animal kingdom may have been worth it.

-Miranda Burke

That inspired title might imply to you that I think saving these abominations was a bit of a ‘con’. This has always been a widely Controversial issue, but despite much discussion it has now been announced that these bamboo eating bears are no longer ‘endangered’, but are now considered ‘vulnerable’ thanks to conservation efforts to a monumental scale.

Pandas are probably the most expensive pets that this world knows today. Millions of pounds are spent in trying to keep this ridiculous species alive. Aside from the well-known fact that trying to mate them is like trying to force together Bill and Hillary, evolution has decided to turn its back on these dismal excuses for creatures by maintaining a predominantly carnivorous digestive system.

Pandas consume a massive 27.5lb of bamboo per day, only 17% of which they actually digest. It seems as though they probably use up more energy in the process of their near constant eating which takes up 14 hours of their day, than they actually obtain from the bamboo. The carnivorous gastrointestinal tract that they possess has been studied. A team of researchers published a paper in journal mBio where they tested the bacterial colonies from giant panda faeces, they discovered that Escherichia/Shigella and Streptococcus were present, which are typical of a meat digesting gut. To top it off, their genome doesn’t even contain the genes which produce the enzymes needed to digest fibrous plants. It is a wonder that they even manage to digest that miniscule 17% at all.

panda-free

They have certain other discerning qualities which apparently are overlooked by the average panda fan who sports a cute black and white bear face on t-shirts and pencil cases.  The first includes the fact that for the first two weeks of their lives, pandas are coprophages, if you don’t know what that means; it’s when animals eat poo. They consume their mother’s bacteria packed faeces which lines their gastrointestinal tract with microbial colonies to aid the digestion of their food. Which as we have already noted, isn’t particularly successful.

The second of their beautifully pertinent qualities is the acrobatic display they perform whilst urinating. Pandas can’t even pee right! They choose to stand on their hands and pee upside down against a tree in order to get a better height to mark their territory. Fabulous.

Now the conservation of these forest dwelling critters is much debated, the fact that very heavy bags of money are being thrown at saving the pandas was often thought to be a terrific waste of time. And the time, money and effort could be used on other endangered creatures who aren’t actively driving themselves to extinction.

The main reason most direct debits are set up to the WWF is because these animals are considered to be cute and adorable, which isn’t a staple argument to keep the species alive kicking and screaming.  However there is actually some valid justification as to why the conservation still continues. As well as being stunning advocates of racial equality they have other uses.

Pandas being terrible bamboo digesters, actually are brilliant bamboo seed distributers by pooping. This is brilliant for the maintenance of the habitat which is shared by many species. Other endangered species also reside in the bamboo filled forests of China such as the crested Ibis, Nipponia Nippon, a beautiful rose-tinted bird which was once thought to be extinct but 250 individuals are known of today. Another endangered species is the golden snub-nosed monkey, Rhinopithecus roxellana which also lives alongside the giant pandas. Ploughing money into protecting this habitat is not only good for the panda survival but inadvertently the survival of many other species. The habitat itself is economically essential for the livelihood of the local people, providing fuel, food and medicine. The panda itself is culturally and economically important being the front face for Chinese culture and a vital tourist attraction.

As we all also know, the panda is also the marketing representative for the conservation charity WWF and successfully raises millions of pounds, which not only goes to save pandas, but also many other deserving endangered creatures. Imagine, if we let all the pandas die, that wouldn’t be a great face for the WWF logo any longer and millions of donations would be lost.

So even if the panda aggravates you because of its infinite ridiculousness, just remember the other perhaps not so cute species we are helping at the same time. As much as those black and white, upside-down peeing pandas aggravate me, I don’t believe there is a ‘con’ in this CONservation success.

-Miranda Burke

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