I begin with a species that is treasured, criticized, even bemoaned and yet it is an icon of the conservation movement; coincidentally, this is the species I’m most frequently asked to explain its worthiness for continued existence. The species in question is the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). These bears are recognized world-wide for their distinct black and white pattern, rounded faces with tufted ears and large eyes that immediately trigger our reaction to cuteness due to the similarity to cute characteristics in human babies [1, 2]. Their well-documented roly poly antics undoubtedly helps.
Hello and welcome!
I am a conservation biologist by education and field experience, which ranges from wildlife rehabilitation, radio telemetry projects, banding birds, and monitoring riparian restoration. As I meander my way through my varied career path – currently not within the conservation world full-time – I’ve noticed a common interaction when I describe my field of study. Quite often I encounter the same question: “why does *insert species* matter?” and every so often it is followed by “I mean, would it really be so bad if *insert species* disappeared?”