I am writing to you regarding your article “Should pandas be left to face extinction?”. With
some of your ideas, I must agree, but with others, it may be better left unsaid. There are
pros and cons to pandas, which is the reason why I will not be able to answer the question
whether pandas should be left to face extinction.
Firstly, I disagree with your statement “if we took all the cash we spend on pandas and just
bought a rainforest with it, we might be doing a better job”. Pandas play a crucial role in
China’s bamboo forests, by spreading seeds and helping vegetation to grow. A panda’s
habitat is also not only important to the panda itself, but the livelihood of local communities
as well. The local community use it for food, income, fuel for cooking, heating and even
medicine. By protecting their habitat, we can provide a lifeline for a host of other
endangered animals, including the golden snub-nosed monkey, takin or gnu goat and
crested ibis, who share these magnificent forests with the panda.
Secondly, all pandas in the world are owned by China. This would mean that pandas bring in a significant amount of income for China. When Edinburg rented two pandas, they were
paying 600,000 pounds a year for the pair. That’s nearly 10 million over a decade, not
including the costs of their care and feeding. This shows that these pandas are a significant economic benefit to China. China also uses their pandas in diplomatic ties. As national treasures of China, these pandas are the most tangible sign of close tie between Beijing and the receiving country. Only seven nations have received Chinese pandas since 1994. Pandas not only give China economic benefits, but they also allow China to have close ties with other likeminded nations.
On the other hand, I totally agree with your statement “The panda is a species of bear that
has gone herbivorous and eats a type of food that isn’t all that nutritious, and that dies out
sporadically”. A study of genetic analysis of 121 samples of panda poop, published by New York times, finds that the community of microbes living inside the pandas’ gut is optimised to digest meat. Yet, giant pandas have been eating bamboo for the last 7 million years, and this is the only food they eat. Pandas, unfortunately did not develop a larger gut to give themselves more time to break down these stubborn plant parts, as herbivores did.
Furthermore, they do not have the DNA to make different enzymes that would have helped
them digest bamboo. They were missing ‘Ruminococcaceae’ and ‘Bacteroidetes’ bacteria.
These two groups are good at degrading fiber and pandas do not have that. They would also refuse to eat meat because they lost the meat eating gene, which controls the ability to taste umami flavours. Even if meat is offered in abundance, the panda still would not take it, much less hunt for prey themselves. This makes it very difficult for pandas to survive in the wild with their unpractical diet.
Pandas themselves, also, do not breed often. A female panda only ovulates once a year, and can only handle one set of off springs every two years. Pandas have no libido, and no
interest in repopulating their species. When pandas do manage to have cubs, it’s usually twins. One of whom is raised to be a good panda adult, the other of whom is left to die.
Panda mothers actively let one of their children die. Doesn’t this seem cruel?
With this fact, I agree with your point that we are spending too much on pandas. In my opinion, it seems that they do not have the will to survive and repopulate their species without the help of humans. I agree that spending millions on a species that does not have the ability to survive seems quite pointless. Genetically, their DNA pretty much spells out extinction if left alone in the wild. They seem to be destined to only survive in captivity.
In conclusion, I hope you would take my points into consideration before publishing an
article that could potentially have made panda enthusiasts or conservationists give up hope on this magnificent creature. Given your reputation and title, I would hope that you
consider words you say more wisely. And to answer your question of “should we let pandasgo extinct?”, I would say no. Yes, it may cost a lot to aid this species to survive, but not only do they bring attention and economic benefits to conservation efforts, they also bring tourism and diplomatic ties to China.
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