Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The Panda Principle

Pandas are cute. Big, furry, friendly and, well, just cute. Indeed we know that pandas are cute because 'wuffie' use the panda as their logo - after all these lovely bundles of funny fur are just the sort of wildlife we want to save. For sure that giant international charity doesn't use a really ugly animal or one that might frighten the children. Nope they use the cuddliest of all animals as bait for our support.

And this is The Panda Principle. These are animals that have a seriously restricted diet, really aren't all that keen on sex and only live (wildly) in China where they - people that it - eat everything. None of these factors are great survival traits. But, trust me folks, the panda won't be getting extinct any time soon because the panda is cute. We'd miss pandas, it would be terrible if they died out. Whereas for lots of other animals - rats, leeches, those really ugly giant toads - our response to their extinction would be at best, "oh dear".

The thing with this survival lark is that you have to be either very adaptive, very fast breeding or living in a place where people don't live. Or else you have to be cute. Foxes are cute especially when we get that moonlit glimpse of the vixen with her cubs playing on the back lawn. And this cuteness trumps the fact that those same foxes were yesterday rampaging through a neighbours pen slaughtering her prized rare breed ducks and fancy chickens.

Cuteness wins as a survival trait in a world where humans dominate. Now I appreciate this is probably hubris but such views are essential to the modern idea of conservation and environmentalism. This isn't about nature red in tooth and claw. It's not about how small us humans are next to the awesome power of nature. Nope, it's about us, about how we cause all the problems (like those pandas getting fewer). However, us humans are suckers for cuteness - especially us urban humans far from the reality of living with animals.

And that cuteness means that those big furry animals we ooh and aah over will survive. Perhaps in bounded and controlled environments - they are animals after all. But survive they will - most so we can gawp at them, put pictures of their babies on the Internet and exalt the giving of alms to sustain their survival. Here's to The Panda Principle!


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