ABANDON THE PANDA; TV expert: Let them die.
TV WILDLIFE expert Chris Packham has controversially called for giant pandas to be allowed to die out - with tigers next.
Chris, host of BBC2's Springwatch, believes the millions spent preserving pandas could be put to better use elsewhere.
He argued: "Here's a species that of its own accord has gone down an evolutionary cul-de-sac. It's not a strong species.
"Unfortunately it's big and cute and it's a symbol of the World Wildlife Fund - and we pour millions of pounds into panda conservation. I reckon we should pull the plug. Let them go with a degree of dignity."
The cash should instead go on saving biodiversity hotspots, he argued.
Chris, 48, claimed breeding the threatened species in captivity then releasing them into the wild was "nonsense" - and said tigers would die out within two decades.
He told the Radio Times: "Animals are invariably becoming extinct because there's no secure habitat for them.
"Where are you going to release them? I don't think tigers are going to last another 15 years. How can you conserve an animal that's worth more dead than alive? You can't."
Giant pandas are found only in China. There are around 1,600 in the wild with around 180 more being reared in captivity.
They are dying out because their natural habitat is being destroyed.
Fellow wildlife expert David Bellamy last night backed Chris and said: "I agree completely. When I was a WWF trustee I begged them to buy big chunks of the land in which these animals live, not just go on spending millions on rearing pandas in captivity.
"You can't release them back into the wild if there is no wild left and we shouldn't rear animals just to put them into cages.
"Even the WWF admitted there is no longer enough land for them to live on." But the WWF's Dr Mark Wright said at-risk species could thrive in the right conditions. He said: "Chris is right - we need to keep secure habitat for endangered species. This is exactly what's being achieved in the case of the giant panda."
It is not the first time Chris has outraged conservationists by suggesting they give up on the iconic black and white bear.
Last year he said: "I'd eat the last panda if I could have the money we've spent on panda conservation back on the table for me to do more sensible things with." On another occasion he said: "Let them go, wave goodbye, maybe have a party or a wake. Just stop wasting money trying to save them from extinction."
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
1869 A hunter brings a panda fur to the French Jesuit, Armand David
1929 Roosevelt brothers are first foreigners to shoot a panda
1936 Ruth Harkness captures an infant panda and takes it to the USA, evoking sympathy for plight of the panda and creating the "panda cult"
1957-83 A total of 24 pandas are given by China to foreign countries as goodwill gestures
EARLY 1960s The first four panda reserves are established. Decree prohibits hunting panda
1970s DNA analysis reveals panda is member of the bear family
MID 1970s Pandas in northern areas thought to be starving after a mass flowering and subsequent die-off of bamboo. Census estimates 1,100 pandas exist in the wild
1978 Chinese government initiates a panda study, building a field camp on a steep forested slope in the Wolong Reserve
1980 First WWF observation of a panda's presence in the wild occurs
1983-87 More than 30 panda cubs taken from the wild in belief the cubs had been abandoned. In fact mothers often leave their cubs for up to 50 hours to go foraging
1984 The Chinese government decides that the panda is a lucrative commodity and begins to loan pandas to zoos with fees of up to $1million per year
1989 Satellite imagery shows suitable habitat for pandas in the Sichuan Province has shrunk to 50% of its size in 1974
1996 Death sentences are imposed on two men caught at the Chinese border with panda and golden monkey pelts
1999 Studies show that a total of 467 pandas have been kept in captivity since 1936
2004 The result of the Third National Survey on the Giant Panda and Its Habitat is released by Chinese
FULL OF LIFE Pandas play in tree on reserve in China's Sichuan province
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2009|
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