Saving the giant panda
Despite being one of the most loved creatures on the planet, there remains a controversy around the giant panda and the conservation efforts that surround the species.
Many have argued that the amount of public attention the giant panda receives overshadows other species that would be easier to save. While it is true there are many worthy causes within wildlife and environmental conversation, it’s simply not true that saving the giant panda is a lost cause or a waste of time.
The role of humanity
Firstly we should establish that the idea that pandas restricted breeding capabilities in the wild mean they are singled out for extinction by means of evolution is absurd. It is only because of human caused destruction to their environment that panda populations have been forced into decline, to such a great extent that their population is unable to bounce back naturally.
This is a dangerous idea that removes our environmental responsibility as a species. We have been a significant factor in driving the giant panda to the edge of extinction and now we have an opportunity to help right that wrong.
The giant panda’s ecosystem
Giant panda conservation goes further than this though, the giant panda is at the centre of a complex ecosystem and by protecting this beloved bear, we help to ensure this vital balance is maintained.
The giant panda’s natural habitat is the bamboo forests of China and the wandering bear plays a key role in spreading seeds and helping vegetation to germinate across their range. Many other wonderful species call the bamboo forests home, including the dwarf blue sheep, rare and multi-coloured pheasants and several types of endangered monkeys.
But it’s not just these species that benefit from the bamboo forests. The local human population depend on the land for food, fuel, medicine and their livelihoods - using materials from the forests for their crafts and trades.
These ecosystems also form the watersheds for two of China’s major rivers, the Yangtze and Yellow, which frame a region home to hundreds of millions of people. The resulting river basins (which would otherwise not exist) fuel agriculture, industry and hydroelectric power stations as well as being the focal point of much of China’s tourism.
When people criticize efforts to save the giant panda, what they’re really showing is that they don’t understand the complexity of a natural ecosystem and all of it’s elements. So make sure next time you speak to a panda denier that you’re armed with all the facts. They might be surprised to learn just how far reaching the extinction of one black and white bear could go.