Yesterday, at The American Conservative, I wrote a little about what the ends of conservation are, and what projects properly fall within that sphere. That’s perhaps a dry way of putting it; a more vivid way would be the subject line a friend sent the article out under “Leah at her most unsentimental.” But I don’t know how someone could have possibly gotten that impression from a post titled: “Save Smallpox, Not Pandas.”
These new setbacks only represent a marginal increase in difficulty for the breeding program; the major obstacle remains the pandas themselves. San Diego’s pair are the only pandas in the United States who have managed to reproduce naturally. Zoos appear to have stocked their pens with pandas of the Bartleby variety, who would prefer not to reproduce, despite zookeepers attempts to show the pandas porn, artificially inseminate pandas with the sperm of deceased males, and even build obstacles into the panda pens, in the hopes that the female will trip over them and fall into proper breeding position…
Zoos are not conserving the panda for the sake of the panda but for the entertainment of the human spectators. Pandas in captivity could not sustain themselves, and there is little hope they can be trained to carry on their species without intervention. Any conservationist who praises themselves for “saving” the panda must recognize that the zoo breeding programs do little more than animate the corpse of the species.
I’m not opposed to protecting the habitats of pandas, so they can make their best go at reproducing in the wild, but, when it comes to zoo programs, I’d rather we admit it’s for our own convenience in having captive pandas to look at, and not greenwash our efforts. For the smallpox connection, you’ll have to click through.