By Rebecca Nesbit MRSB, ecologist and author
Before I attended the Biology Week debate on ‘Should we save the panda?‘, I was conflicted. The loss of such an incredible species felt like a tragedy, yet ‘it’s cute and furry’ seemed no reason to allocate scarce conservation funds to its protection.
I left the debate with my conflicts resolved: far from being a drain on conservation resources, the panda attracts money and attention. By protecting the panda, we are protecting many species which share its habitat.
There are many charismatic species which have been valuable as flagships for conservation – take the Galapagos Floreana Mockingbird for example. However, in some situations the success has also brought conflicts.
I recently experienced the conflict first-hand when I visited Bandipur Tiger Reserve in western India. Reserves such as this which have been designated for tiger conservation offer protection to many other species too, and the tigers bring in tourists and much-needed income.
But there are problems too – chasing tigers isn’t necessarily beneficial for animal welfare or their conservation, and funds don’t always end up benefitting those who need them the most. I explore these issues in this podcast, and would be very interested to hear people’s thoughts in the comments below.