I’m not sure if you heard the news, but the giant panda was recently removed from the endangered species list. The International Union for Conservation of Nature downgraded the panda’s status from “endangered” to “vulnerable”, showing the world that underneath that tough bear façade, pandas are really just sensitive creatures with their own needs and insecurities, like the rest of us.




The only thing scarier than extinction is letting yourself love somebody

So the panda is sticking with us, at least for now. This is a big win for the conservation community. Millions and millions of dollars have been spent trying to bring the pandas back, and these global efforts have apparently paid off, with the panda population increasing by 17% in the last decade, to around 1800 in the wild. Which is good, since it the World Wildlife Fund would’ve had a lot of egg on its face if its signature animal just died off.




Like that time their logo designer got their acronym mixed up



Not everyone is a fan of the panda, though. In fact, many think we should just let the pandas die.




Including the nefarious sun bear, who has always been jealous of the panda’s cuteness



That sounds harsh, but those people bring up some good points. From an evolutionary perspective, pandas aren’t really that well-suited for survival. They eat almost nothing but bamboo, which is a problem because bamboo has pretty much zero nutritional value. They need to eat 12 – 38 kg of it each day just to stay alive, but bamboo reserves are rapidly declining in the wild. Maybe try being an actual bear and hunt something, you lazy bastards.



Pandas are like the embarrassing vegan cousin of the bear family



Also, pandas refuse to have sex. Zoos practically stack two pandas together so they will make a baby panda and therefore justify the zoo spending their whole budget on bamboo; and yet for the most part pandas just aren’t that into it. In fact, a research centre in China got so desperate they actually showed their pandas “panda porn” to get them in the mood. Seriously. Also, as the BBC tells us, “Pandas Unexcited by Viagara



On the plus side, the headlines for these news stories are hilarious



Not to mention, a lot of people just think too much time, money, and effort has been spent on pandas, instead of on other species that could make use of it. Panda breeding programs happen in captivity, and as one panda expert from Beijing University noted researcher noted, trying to reintroduce pandas to the wild is as “pointless as taking off the pants in order to fart“. I’ll assume that makes more sense in Mandarin.




The phrase is frequently protested by the Chinese Union for Pantsless Farting (CUPF)



So, pandas are sexless, lazy little slobs that we spend too much time and money on that can’t even properly digest the only food they eat. Should we just leave them to die, then?




Because if so, a lot of gamers are in trouble



I say no, for a few reasons. For one thing, wild pandas aren’t that useless. They eat bamboo, sure, but bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on earth, with stalks growing up to a foot each day, and bamboo species have historically been found on every continent but Europe, so it’s not like there couldn’t be enough bamboo to go around.




Bamboo presumably had an ill-conceived vote to leave Europe, then instantly regretted it



Also, pandas don’t have a breeding problem, at least in nature. This is a species that has been around for  3 million years, 15 times longer than humans. Before deforestation and habitat destruction, pandas weren’t short in the baby-making department. A species that has been around that long has no trouble gettin ‘ er on, if you know what I mean, wink wink.




I’m referring to panda sex



More than that, though, the conservation efforts aren’t just about the pandas. The pandas’ range in China is also home to 96 other species that aren’t found anywhere else in the world. Efforts to save the pandas’ habitat also protects these species. Which is good, because I’m pretty sure no one is mobilizing a force to save the Ningshan alpine toad.




And with good reason. Blecchhh, amirite?

And make no mistake, it’s the habitat conservation that has turned things around for the panda. As admirable/sexually inappropriate as the captive breeding efforts are, they’re just now starting to show some limited success. Meanwhile, China has doubled its protected nature reserves in the last 20 years, covering 3.4 million hectares of forest and 2/3 of the panda population. They have also trained nature reserve managers and anti-poaching patrols, which sounds awesome.




Above: China’s anti-poaching patrol



So, when I say we shouldn’t just let pandas die, I don’t mean we need to save just the pandas, in zoos or whatever. I mean, conservation efforts should focus on retaining and expanding panda habitat, and let the animals do their thing from there. They’ve already showed that they can thrive if they have enough space, let’s give them that space again, is what I’m saying. Then they’ll get back to that noblest of all endeavours – repopulation.




And save the panda porn for the internet


Dan is off to raise awareness for the CUPF. Email him at Dan [at] scienceninjas.ca to see a topic covered here.

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Dan Re