Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER GRAHAM INGLIS: Pandering to the media

Graham Inglis is my best friend, and also happens to be Deputy Director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology. Here he espouses what is certain to be a deeply controversial theory. Indeed it is so controversial that it has taken ME by surprise and I am not quite sure what to think about it.
However, we believe in Free Speech here at Cryptozoology:Online so, what do YOU think?

In an article for Wildlife Extra, Chris Packham has suggested, somewhat apologetically, that it's time to give up on trying to save the panda.

His article can be found HERE

He summarises the panda situation as follows:

"An ex-carnivore bamboo muncher unfortunately ends up in the most populated place on earth. Its food predictably all dies with disastrous regularity and its digestive system is poorly adapted to its diet. It's slow to reproduce, tastes good, but in a blind strike of evolutionary luck it is plump, cute and cuddly."

- and he suggests we "save our relatively paltry funds for cases where we can make a real difference."

There is, one might say, food for thought in this proposal. I'm inclined to go somewhat further, and ask whether it would actually be be a good idea to let them die.

Of course, emotion is involved, it's not just economics involved. There's few animals more iconic to the conservation movement than the panda; and in the case of the WWF it's literally iconic - they've has had the panda as their logo for many years.

Doubtless some people would feel uneasy about account-book-driven prioritising, feeling that such a cold-blooded approach has resonances with eugenics. Nazi Germany, and all that. Unfortunately, funding is finite, and budgeting is a reality whether we like it or not. We can't remedy everything simultaneously, so it follows that choices have to be made.

On the other hand, grand causes can generate public interest and thus potentially generate a harvest of funding.

One hears of cats rescued from burning buildings that then need extensive - and thus expensive - surgery to restore ears or other anatomical features. Since domestic cats are so abundant, one could argue the money would be better spent in neutering programs or caring for the thousands of strays.

However, one should never underestimate the media "awww" factor (as in, "awww, ain't that sweet.") A single "feel-good" restorative surgery story in the media, especially on a day when news is in short supply, can generate huge interest in animal care. The resultant boost to fund-raising and volunteering could well more than repay the initial expenditure.

There are pro's and con's in any financial reckoning, but I do sometimes ponder one very drastic and perhaps controversial consideration:

Maybe the world would benefit from a high-profile failure.

If the pandas were allowed to die out, this undoubtedly would be a big news story. The resulting recriminations could well kickstart a serious campaign to address habitat loss in general and related issues such as illegal logging and corporate pollution.

The panda's evolution may well have dead-ended itself. But possibly this cuddly freeloader might yet justify its existence.


Michael said...

Panda's really are an evolutionary dead end,they would probably die out without mankind's "help".Yes they do have the "awww" factor and they are an icon,but sometimes I think you have to be realistic,and if you look at it from a very mercenary way,if they died out,"Look,the Panda's died out,let's not let it happen to (whatever spieces ) again".

Brutal but logical,


Paddy said...

This is basically triage, and although heartbreaking for some is the kiss of life for others.