TV naturalist Chris Packham said last week in a newspaper article that pandas should be left to face extinction. It’s a shocking statement from a man who is well-known for his love of animals, and one that will provoke strong reactions from your students.
Pandas appeal to peoples’ emotional side, and they have become a poster-child for conservation. As Packham says “It’s easier to raise money for something fluffy”.
But panda conservation is expensive, and due to the animals’ limited habitat and extremely restricted diet, it is perhaps unlikely to be ultimately successful. Doesn’t it make more sense to use the same money to protect other species which are more likely to survive in the long-run?
Dr Mark Wright, chief scientist at the WWF maintains that the pandas’ natural habitat in china should be conserved, not just to keep the pandas from extinction, but also the myriad of other wildlife living in the same area.
One way to get your students to really engage with these issues is to run a marketplace activity. Assign each of your students a persona, get them to research the issues and then present their case to the class.
Some ideas for groups include – Chris Packham, WWF workers, rainforest conservationists. You could even get some of the children to be the spokesperson for pandas, or to represent the Yangtze river dolphin, an animal that has become extinct very recently and was sadly much too ugly to attract much in the way of conservation cash.
Is extinction just a part of life on earth? Do your students feel comfortable deciding which species to save? Can any of your students describe the WWF logo?