On September 23, 2012, a baby panda cub died unexpectedly at the National Zoo in Washington, DC. Shortly after, the mother panda began cradling a toy, indicative of the idea that she too is struggling with the reality of no longer being a mother. In both the wild and captivity, baby pandas face surprising obstacles. In 2006 in China, a mother panda, weighing in around 200 lbs., fell asleep while nursing her baby and accidentally crushed her four-ounce cub to death. Unlike the fate of the Chinese cub, the death of this cub remains a mystery. Though the zoologists are still unable to determine the cause of death, a necropsy ruled out strangulation. But what happened?
With the murky and at best minimal protections afforded to thefragile existence of the panda bear, this issue is more important than ever. Dovetailing this important issue of protecting pandas in zoos is the debate over whether the preservation of pandas is an effort worth making at all. Some make the contention that saving pandas are a waste of governmental time, resources and money. Indeed, The Linnean Society of London has already scheduled a debate entitled, “Do we need pandas? Choosing which species to save.”
One more time…do we need pandas? That our “need” for an animal designates its import to be preserved from extinction is demonstrative of the sad but true general understanding that we as a global society view animals in terms of their usefulness to us. The panda bear’s inherent value is not only independent from this “need” notion, their value doesn’t exist at all. And in a world where pandas no longer exist, it opens the floodgates for the possibility for all endangered animals to lose protection and face extinction. Eradicating one of the world’s most exotic and special species from the earth is not only setting a dangerous precedent for all other species, if it happens it will be one of the greater crimes mankind has ever committed.