Fund-raising Giant Pandas for rent and loan.

Giant Pandas are “rented” out by China to zoos across the world on ten-year contracts costing a million dollars per year and all the proceeds are allegedly used to fund their conservation, the breeding centres and their release back into the wild.

They always come in pairs in the hope they will breed. The zoos pray they will breed as any cubs born will boost their visitors and make them tens of millions in revenue. Any cub born costs the zoos a further “baby tax” and are returned to China for breeding at 2 to 3 years old to support a healthy gene pool.

I don’t know whether it is me, but there seems something wrong with all this. China seems to do a very good job at breeding them at home so why ship them to zoos to breed? Although the Pandas are not harmed it can almost be likened to killing big game in Africa and using the proceeds from the hunting licences to protect other animals and their habitat.

My main concern is that the system seems to revolve around making money for the zoos and not any conservation purpose or perhaps I am being too cynical. In fact only 90 cubs  have apparently been born outside China in 35 years. There is no doubt though, that a zoo which can afford to keep a pair of pandas is on to a winner.

Pandas can assure a zoo’s financial future

Zoos want them and are willing to pay the astronomical prices for them because they can bolster their financial future by drawing in the crowds. In 2012, Toronto Zoo paid the going price of $1 million per annum for a pair and they produced two cubs which resulted in visitor numbers shooting up and the bucks rolling in.

In 2017, the zoo allowed their move to Calgary Zoo which spent $30 million on facilities to house them and cope with the expected increase in visitors, but will make tens of millions more on the investment. At least four zoos in the USA have Pandas and pay the yearly fee for the “privilege of housing” them.

Visitor numbers shoot up.

Edinburgh zoo rented a pair in 2011 with the 10 year contract costing £600,000 a year and they must be returned at the end of  this agreement. Not that the zoo is too worried as visitor numbers shot up by 4 million in the first two years at £16 plus a head.

But the crowds have a habit of losing interest if a cub is not born to reinvigorate the attraction and so zoo owners pray that they will mate. Luckily a cub was born in 2017 to much excitement and media coverage and probably to the relief of the zoo’s accountants.

Captive numbers have increased, but for what?

The number of wild and captive Pandas has increased to over 2,000 and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have downgraded their endangered species label to “vulnerable”, but this does not mean that they are plentiful in the wild or will ever be, as there is very little room in suitable habitats for their release.

China has bred and reared over 400 giant pandas and love to show off all the cute babies to world acclaim, but allegedly only 10 have ever been released into the wild since 1983 and only two of these have survived which appears to make a total nonsense of breeding them  for release.

Few are being released into the wild successfully

Some cynics have suggested that the Giant Panda is used as a “strategic asset for geopolitical reasons” because of the many trade agreements coinciding with their arrival in a country. The Pandas at Edinburgh coincided with a £2.6 billion worth of trade contracts for Britain. Zoos in France, Canada, Australia, Malaysia and Thailand also received Pandas following trade agreements.

So what we have is dozens of Pandas being shipped around the world as fund-raisers for zoos and their own conservation. Is this a bad thing or is this the future for conserving species and a policy based on commercialism that we have to increasingly accept.

With so few apparently being released into the wild successfully and their habitat decreasing due to human encroachment, they are probably destined to continue to exist only as zoo exhibits making huge revenue for zoos and China. Lets hope not.

The lure of ‘get up close’ animal attractions

What is Zoonasia?

Tourists abroad risking life and limb.

We seem to lose all common sense and concern for our own health and safety

With mass tourism spreading round the world it doesn’t take long for local entrepreneurs to realise the strong lure of displaying local wildlife to tourists in unregulated collections, animal rides and shows, particularly when it concerns young animals or up close encounters. And they are quick to entertain the hordes and grab the foreign exchange.

As tourists abroad we seem unable to stop ourselves from taking part in these pursuits just to while away a few hours. Often visits to these places are part of excursions and day trips advertised on boards outside every tourist information stand.  Many of those who book these trips see no wrong in it, and become fed up with ‘do-gooders’ or ‘animal lovers’ telling them it is wrong.

We seem to lose all common sense and concern for our own health and safety and visit certain attractions which we would never consider supporting at home, usually as part of our holiday itinerary, such as riding elephants, posing with baby monkeys, tigers or snakes or watching crocodile wrestling, performing bears and elephants, cock-fighting and bull-fighting, the list is endless.

Asian elephants forced to perform for tourists

The promise of close contact with animals entices us and for some absurd reason we are eager to accept assurances from total strangers in charge, or tour guides, that the baby monkey or tiger cub we are about to hold, the pen we are about to walk into containing adult tigers, lions or leopards or the animal we are about to ride on are perfectly safe to be in close contact with and have our photograph taken with. We have no idea of the unpredictability or danger posed by ‘tame’ or semi-tame wild animals.

We also, for some inexplicable reason,  cannot associate the same cruelty and suffering involved, with that of circus animals which most people are supposedly against.   Globally, incalculable numbers are trained by methods which normally involve fear and pain and they face torment and neglect living in unnatural environments. Trainers force them to do demeaning and unnatural tricks and although there is plenty of advice and publicity available on the issues, most tourists abroad lap it up, particularly the burgeoning tourist trade from countries which see little value in animal rights.

No consideration is given to what kind of life the animals experience and what happens to them once they outgrow their usefulness. The poor things are only brought into the world to make a lot of foreign currency for the owners, which is only made possible by the clueless tourists who support such ventures.

For me it is impossible to understand why watching some local idiot wrestling with a snake or a crocodile or a poor monkey riding a kids bicycle is a pleasurable experience. Honestly what do we get from experiencing these or riding on an elephant’s back for twenty minutes or so when the poor creature spends most of its life chained up.

Such behaviour is not just restricted to ‘exotic’ countries with different values, as such activities are common in the USA, Canada and Australia where you can pay to meet and stroke tigers at petting zoos or watch alligator wrestling. Tiger petting attractions are very popular throughout South East Asian countries such as Thailand where tour companies promote the experiences, such as Tripadvisor and ‘animal loving’ reviewers laughably give them the thumbs up.

When the animals are too old to perform or are no longer ‘cute’ and particularly if they rebel, the owners discard or kill them. Baby monkeys are taken from their mothers, attached to rope leashes and paraded around all day. Once their cuteness wanes with age and they become aggressive through frustration, they are either killed or discarded. They are rarely able to fend for themselves or safely join a troop.

History is littered with highly publicised tragic incidents of so-called rogue animals attacking, mauling or killing innocent tourists, but usually it is the tourist who is mainly culpable. Despite these regular incidents we never seem to learn.

Tourists have short memories and still put their lives at risk to go elephant trekking as it is a thing to do on their bucket list.

In 2000, at an elephant ‘show’ in Pattaya, Thailand a man and his two daughters were crushed by a frustrated elephant that ran amok into the seated audience. One of his daughters was tragically killed and after the incident the naive father criticised the lack of medical facilities at the park and lack of an ambulance. Attacks by exasperated and cruelly treated elephants in countries like Thailand occur every year and are widely publicised, but tourists have short memories and still put their lives at risk to go elephant trekking as it is a thing to do on the tick list.

In 2016, a Scottish tourist named Gareth Crowe was trampled and gored to death by an elephant in Koh Samui in front of his 16-year-old daughter having allegedly tormented the animal with a banana and when attacked by his handler wielding a speared hook, gored him as well.

No matter how well-trained and socialized with humans an animal is, we fail to understand that wild animals never lose their wild instincts and can rebel at any time when they become frustrated and their natural wild urges come to the surface.

The message is not getting across that posing with captive wild animals with no thought to how the poor creatures was obtained, housed and cared for, and ultimately disposed of is a crass behaviour just to get meaningless photograph posting on social media and forgotten in no time.

By attending these events you are not only playing a part in continuing the cruelty and suffering involved behind the scenes, but RISKING YOUR LIVES!