Should scarce conservation dollars be spent to keep the giant panda from going extinct, when that same money could be used to help many other species struggling to survive?
Following the death of a baby panda at the National Zoo, simply raising the question was enough to spark outrage. "This is yet another ignorant question by the most destructive and arrogant species on the planet: humans," one commenter posted on a Los Angeles Times story that addressed the issue.
"To ask the question 'do we need pandas' is indicative of just how disgusting and ignorant humans are, as if the 'we' in question is the only relevant point of view."
Said another poster: "When we can waste money fighting wars for oil, or spending millions of dollars on negative political campaigning, or spending government money on space exploration that can be done by private industry for less, we should not even consider this question."
The reality, however, is that conservation dollars are limited. And with many species struggling to survive, some experts suggest that those scarce dollars would be better spent on a species that has an easier time reproducing and a more hospitable natural habitat.
But, of course, few of those species are as beloved as the giant panda.
The giant panda is the rarest member of the bear family. About 1,600 giant pandas are left in the wild, plus a few hundred in captivity. One of the reasons the panda struggles to survive, conservationists say, is that portions of its natural habit are in jeopardy because of human encroachment.
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