Daryl Ilbury

So long, and thanks for all the bamboo

In Eish! on November 13, 2011 at 1:43 pm

"Why Henry..."

For most people the panda is the cute and cuddly symbol of the World Wildlife Fund; but for many conservationists quite frankly it’s a pain in the butt.

It only eats bamboo, which is virtually indigestible and has almost zero nutritional value, and it must be the only animal in the world that doesn’t see any value in procreating. Essentially, in evolutionary speak, it’s overstayed its welcome. In conservation speak it’s a serious strain on limited resources; which is why a recent survey of about 600 scientists suggest that when it comes to the panda we need to entertain the notion of what they call ‘conservation triage’.

I first came across the concept of ‘triage’ when I was a captain appointed to South Africa’s 1 Medical Battalion. My role was as a counsellor helping young soldiers exposed to post traumatic stress disorder. During a large scale battle training exercise the surgeons in the unit established a frontline triage facility. I enquired about the term and they said it’s where they prioritised any injuries that came through – those that received priority, those that didn’t and those for whom it was too late.

Conservation triage is the same thing: it is the prioritisation of the allocation of increasingly scarce conservation resources to the most deserving cases. If implemented it’ll mean that unless the panda pulls its weight and learns to procreate, conservation will wash its hands of the remaining pandas and let them quietly die off.

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