On October 23, 2013, America's first and only surviving baby-panda twins reached 100 days old at Zoo Atlanta. And according to Chinese tradition, that's the only time you assign a name to a baby (for both humans and pandas). Since October 9th, Americans have been voting online to decide on what to call these adorable male cubs. From five sets of suggested names, the people have finally chosen Mei Lun and Mei Huan, meaning "something indescribably beautiful and magnificent."
~ Pandamonium erupts as America votes on baby-panda names.
Conservationists believe captive breeding through artifcal insemination is vital in keeping this endangered species from going extinct. There are only about 1,600 pandas left in the wild; and their natural habitat is continuing to fragment and shrink due to human encroachment caused by China's strong economic and industrial growth. But some scientists are beginning to wonder if there is any point in breeding pandas whose innate survival instincts are so weak that they may not survive if they were returned to the wild – and that's assuming there will be a natural habitat for them to return to in the future, click here.
~ Are resources better spent on other endangered species?
In a debate on October 14th at the Royal Society (London), Chris Packham, the host of the BBC nature show Springwatch, argued against saving the embattled panda; he wanted to use the resources to save other more promising species instead, click here. Mr. Packham is not a scientist but is the president of the Hawk Conservancy Trust and the Bat Conservation Trust; he is also a patron of numerous conservancy organizations, including the World Land Trust and Population Matters. Needless to say, the general population adamantly disagrees with Mr. Packham and he has received a lot of hate mail!
~ Is the panda's cuteness overshadowing other species in need?
Is The Panda An Evolutionary Basket Case?
On the surface, Mr. Packham might have a point. Not a long-lived animal (life expectancy at around 15 to 20 years in the wild), the panda isn't exactly the most prolific and robust of species in the rugged struggle for survival. Pandas are solitary animals that are notoriously prudish, with a relatively low fertility rate compared to other mammals. Mating season for the panda is very short, between March and May; and during this period, the mating occurs in just two to four days! Female pandas only give birth to one baby or a pair of twins each season; for the twins, one baby is always abandoned in favor of the stronger cub. The panda newborn is tiny and fragile (about 3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) and the mother sometimes doesn't seem to know what to do with it. Technically, pandas are omnivores (at least their ancestors were), but modern pandas are really picky eaters that consume a 99% vegetarian diet, almost exclusively made up of alpine bamboo (which limits the panda's habitat range). And finally, the panda doesn't seem to be particularly smart compared to its bear cousins (including the brown bear and Asian black bear). And inbreeding in the wild is a major problem for the panda's survival as a species.
~ The panda's only habitat is small, fractured, and shrinking.
But even with all of the panda's shortcomings, we at the Frog Blog think Chris Packham is probably wrong. He is only looking at the financial resources for wildlife preservation that are after the fact. He has overlooked the amount of ticket receipts, free publicity, donations, and merchandising revenue that pandas bring in as the "poster bear" for zoos and wildlife organizations all over the world – one being the very successful World Wildlife Fund (which uses the image of the panda for its logo). If the panda were to go extinct, we think total revenue generated to save ALL wildlife would drop precipitously, thus endangering the survival of many other species.
~ World Wildlife Fund's fundraising campaign using the panda.
The panda is the "anchor" in the conservation world – like that Sears or Walmart store in your local mall. Such stores usually get preferential treatment from the landlord, but that's because they are actually the ones that draw the customers into the mall in the first place. Without them as anchors, all the other smaller shops in the mall would not have any customers and the entire mall would go out of business.
In fact, the panda is likely the main reason, if not the ONLY reason, why people pay good money to visit zoos. But whether captive pandas can return to the wild and flourish there one day is another matter. Regardless, any attempt to save them now is a no-lose situation for everybody.
UPDATE: Corey Knowlton Pays $$$ To Kill Black Rhino
(January 17, 2014) Read our latest update on rhino hunting, click here.
UPDATE: Asian Carps: Barbarians At The Gate!
(March 14, 2014) Has the Asian carp broken into the Great Lakes? Read our latest article on this environmental disaster, click here.
UPDATE: Shark Fin Sales Drop Up To 70% In China
(September 11, 2014) Read our article about the plight of sharks and the shark fin trade, click here.
For related articles in the Frog Blog:
- Shark Fin Sales Drop Up To 70% In China Click here.
- Asian Carps: Barbarians At The Gate! Click here.
- Escaped Python Kills Two Boys Click here.
- Film: Blackfish Exposes SeaWorld Cruelty Click here.
- Bluefin Tuna Sold For $1.7 Million! Click here.
- Justin Bieber Attacked Over His Monkey Click here.
- Moron Lets Infant Play With A Gorilla Click here.
- Prince William Attacks Rhino Poachers Click here.
- Exotic Animals To Return To Zanesville! Click here.
- Bluefin Tuna Sold For A Record $736,000 Click here.
- 50 Exotic/Rare Animals Killed In Ohio Click here.
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