David Attenborough has joined the debate about the future of giant pandas in the wild, insisting that we have an obligation to conserve them.
His comments at an event in London last night put him at odds with fellow naturalist Chris Packham, who has argued that too much money is being spent on protecting the 1600 thought to be left in the wild.
“You could argue, and indeed evolutionary biologists might well argue, that the giant panda is on the way out,” said Attenborough. “If that’s the case then the fundamental reason is that it has evolved to eat only bamboo and the human population in China has increased so much that its food source is disappearing. So if the panda goes now, that will be because we have caused it.”
Packham has previously told Radio Times that the giant panda has entered an evolutionary cul-de-sac and the amount of money being spent to preserve it in the wild would be better spent on other wildlife conservation projects.
But, at the launch of his new series Natural Curiosities, Attenborough disagreed.
“There is a moral argument. There are millions of species that we share this planet with and perhaps they too have rights and we don’t have the right simply to exterminate them out of carelessness. As far as I am concerned, we have an obligation to preserve them.”
The 88-year-old naturalist was also asked about his views on TV presenters, such as the late Steve Irwin, whose style is to get close to animals while filming them.
“Steve was a country boy and if you live in the outback you have a less precious view of wildlife than townies like me. So Steve, from an early age, was jumping on the backs of crocodiles and wrestling them to the ground. I didn’t really enjoy watching him jumping on animals, but though I never met him I know that he cared about the natural world just as much as any other conservationist.”