30 September 2009

to save or not to save...

I'm re-posting this at Montana's request. It relates to Dotterel's environmental questions and is a brief discussion on the pros and cons of preserving iconic species. The title should link you to the piece which appeared in the G2 a week or so ago.

Also, couldn't resist this picture of five fat Pandas, who do they remind you of?


  1. Those pandas look more like people dressed in panda suits than actual pandas! Bankers, perhaps, eating the bamboo of taxpayer bailout?

    I'm not sure where I stand on this issue. I understand that there are thousands of species facing extinction, and that a lot of resources are tied up in saving pandas, but on the other hand it's very hard to get worked up about, say, some horrid mosquito-like insect being wiped out. Dot can no doubt give very good reasons for saving the moskie.

    And I think someone pointed out on the other thread that using pandas as a poster child is really quite clever marketing for the larger cause.

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  3. I havent kept up with this debate too much, I admit. What are the arguments against trying to sustain the Panda? They are mighty cute. Spiders and wasps need to go, pronto, awful, despicable creatures, they are the pure face of evil.

    (thats my learned contribution to the debate, so far, but would be interested to hear more from others who know the arguments involved)

  4. Hi All,

    Glad we're still talking about this! Will compose a more detailed response to the panda issue when I've got time, but off the top of my head: For the other species you've all mentioned (and if you subscribe to an entirely anthropocentric viewpoint, which I don't):

    Mossie larvae feed fish, fish feed people.....

    Spiders keep the mossie/midge population in check (used to leave the arachnid population of my last place, which was by a river, alone for this very purpose)

    Wasps eat other invertebrates, including caterpillars that eat vegetables (either in gardens or on farms: encouraging wasps and other predators is a big part of organic farming)


  5. Oh and Sheff:

    "couldn't resist this picture of five fat Pandas, who do they remind you of?"

    Umm, four fat pandas?

  6. Dot
    Dont know where I found the extra Panda - not usually seeing double that early in the evening. Hey ho - just put it down to old age or innate idiocy.

    I agree some insects can be bloody unpleasant especially when they're buzzing around ruining your picnic. Its interesting how so many of us seem to be repelled by them.

    Unfortunately as Dot points out they are a vital part of the ecology and as such are arguably more important in the greater scheme of things than Pandas, although very difficult to love.

    What might be the outcome ecologically if, for example, we eradicated malaria carrying mosquitos? - it might be very good for homo sapiens but what about everything else in the food chain?

  7. I am very emotive when it comes to this stuff so cannot seem to bring my rational mind to the subject (actually that is just me all over who am I kidding) so... Pandas - gorgeous save 'em. Whales and dolphins - save em. Tigers - please, please save them, magnificent creatures that they are. And do not even get me started on polar bears.

    Now i know we need spiders and flies and such so do not want them to die out - in case it kills all of us too. But if it were not for the fact that they are kind of needed I would not care if they went away tomorrow. Spiders most especially.

    In fact you know (or you may not) how some really rabid creationist types use the banana to prove the existence of god? (It comes in its own packaging, fits the human hand perfectly and gives us the right nutrients in one single hit blah blah.) Well I believe you can fight these creationists with spiders.

    What sort of god would have invented hideous creatures with eight legs that can run really, really fast? Which can fell creatures twenty times their size with a single bite and where the male of the species has its penis next to its head?!

    Spiders = proof of evolution.

  8. Princess, im completely with you on spiders. They are pure evil, they are the ultimate in sinister spawn of satan himself. There is also an alien quality to them, they are not of this world, like they flew in on some cursed asteroid... chilling, vile little things. Apart from the ecological effects I would exterminate them tomorrow if i could, however immoral that may be.

    Polar bears - the polar bear cubs are literally the cutest things on this whole planet, even puppies and kittens dont compare. Some of the clips of them on youtube must be the sweetest videos ever made of anything. They're like little fat teddy bears rolling around, sliding down hills... I want one. Just not when its a two tonne adult.

  9. Come on people, spiders are cool!

    They eat nasty biting, buzzing insects.

    They build amazing webs

    They come in some very pretty colours!

    Just sit and watch one build a web sometime, it's fascinating!

    I forget that some people are so repulsed by them:

    I've just spent the summer working outdoors with a girl who finds them even cooler than I do, I'm so used to telling her that she's got one on her and the response being "cool what sort?" that I found it weird when I told another friend she had one on her the other day and she freaked out!

  10. Dotterel - I could not watch one build a web - I would be sick. If I even see them on television I feel ill. I hate them. I am so with Jay on this. They DO look like alien beings - in fact they look like the little Alien from the films before it grows into that big thing - and I do not think it is a coincidence that the makers of that made the most fearsome sci fi creature ever resemble a spider.

    The thing is - to me they just look like dirty disgusting things. I hate big house spiders the most. But I also hate those garden ones with the big bodies. In fact I am shuddering now. I am so scared of them that when I discovered they had black widows in California I freaked out and my husband had to check the hotel room and the bathroom thoroughly - every night.

    I am trying to be a bit buddhist at the minute - but I cant stop killing spiders. I know it is wrong but I am too scared of them to put them out and I cant sleep if one is in the room. Whats a girl to do?

    I am going to buy a bumble bee den for my garden for next summer though - so get Brownie points for trying to help the bees!

  11. princesscc

    Ok, honestly, I used to be slightly creeped out by them, but since I lived in a place by a river where the alternatives were A) have spiders in the (high ceilinged) corners or B) get bitten to bits by mosquitoes I've been rather fond of them. In fact, I've changed my profile pic to the really pretty one I've had crawling all over me on riverbanks this summer!

    (Sorry if it freaks you out, I'm trying to convert people!)

  12. The worst is when there's a photo of some 8 legged brute in the metro or something, even turning the page and having to touch the paper causes me discomfort. And when you discover one in your room, a silent, black menace perched up in a corner. And then when they move, their body gliding along with their dirty little legs frantically chopping away. Otherwordly, and exceptionally sinister.

    And my god when i heard about a "bird eating" spider with a leg span of 26 inches, well... It eats fcuking birds! Birds!!! 26 inches!! So vile, so completely vile.

    I once saw a pic taken from troops in Iraq, i think, they had found this colossal spider that looked like the Alien facehugger, it was about as big as a dinner plate, and had sort of white, almost transparent skin. It was basically a facehugger. They had it dangling from a rifle. One of the most disturbing things I've seen.

    I like bumble bees actually.

  13. Ok Jay, I've been holding back but now I have to ask, is it cos their mating habits remind you of you and ultima?

  14. Well, in most species the male dances around the female trying to mate with her without her (literally) biting his head off, so any of them, to be fair...........

  15. I didnt think it possible Dot, but that comment has actually made them even more chilling. They need to leave this planet.

  16. You misogynistic speciesist! Who are you to disrespect their feminist culture ;-)

  17. ooh Jay that description of their legs frantically chopping away gives me the creeps.

    Dot - they are not quite the feminists one may think. The male has a very barbed penis (and it is next to its head - its head!!!) and there is one species where the male does not even insert his penis into the females vagina (if that is what lady spiders have) but he just jabs it into her - -anywhere - and gets his stuff into her that way! Seriously - a species that does that? It has to be made by the man downstairs.

    Jay - there is an art gallery come strange museum in Sheff called the Mappin and they have a goliath bird eating spider on the wall - I shit you not it is the size of a small dinner plate. It is the biggest thing I have ever seen with eight legs. And yeah that freaky camel spider thing in Iraq was just horrific. I though it was a wind up so I looked em up and they are real.

    I couldn't move to Australia even if I wanted to because of the spiders - I would literally have a breakdown.

  18. Sorry princescc I just find that stuff fascinating, isn't it amazing what evolution cooks up?

    Have to admit I gave the small black spider with a big red dot on it's back that I spotted in my mate's bathroom in South America a wide berth though............

  19. I suggest that all you arachnophobes take a look at Attenborough's 'Life in the Undergrowth - The Silk Spinners'. Fantastic!

  20. It is fascinating dot- but also repellent (to me and only in the case of spiders). I don't have that reaction to too many other things, dont mind snakes etc - oh but I do hate slugs too. They make me feel sick.

    I think fear of things like spiders and snakes etc is to some extent natural - after all they are deadly in many places. It is a sensible phobia as far as I am concerned - not like my sis who is scared of buttons.

    Scherfig - I just couldn't because it is not just that I am scared of them - they make me feel sick. They are horrid. Weirdly the only ones I can bear to look at are those patterned tarantulas - the ones with bright black and orange stripes. I just think the stripes makes them less hideous than the others but the rest make me want to heave.

    The most worrying thing of all is those spider goats - why are we putting spider genes into other species - it will end badly mark my words.

  21. What is the matter with you people?? Haven't you ever read Charlotte's Web?

    I wouldn't say I want a spider crawling on me, but I'm okay with them. I like snakes, lizards and bats, too. Love bats, actually.

  22. Montana

    Bats Are wonderful. I once lived in a place where I had a female Pipistrel and two babies roosting behind a mirror in the sitting room. Bit worried about these Segestria spiders that Stoaty mentioned that have moved in from Europe and are scoffing our garden spiders at a rate of knots.

  23. One of my kids is an arachnophobe, there's a bood-curdling scream which accompanies the discovery of one in the house that kinda makes you scared too ..

    Have you arachnophobes tried that 'spider away' spray stuff? Apparently they don't like the pong of chestnut. My mate gets it for me from Netto, £1 a bottle. Seems to make the family arachnophobe happy anyway.

    My other half, having spent time with an uncle living 'out in the bush' during his childhood in foreign parts, has a very healthy respect for snakes, spiders, wasps & such. He had a close encounter with the bushmaster, one of the deadliest snakes in South America. Not to be trifled with.

  24. "Have you arachnophobes tried that 'spider away' spray stuff? Apparently they don't like the pong of chestnut."

    I heard this too, so put about 300 conkers all over the house, lined my bed like a fortress, and it actually wortked quite well. We were seeing loads, after the conkers only one little tiddler for the rest of the winter. One night we found about 3 of those huge house spiders within the space of half hour, it was like an invasion, like the scene in Arachnophobia when they all come out the woodwork, we were under siege, kill one, someone would shout there was another, big dirty brutes too, beasts, more like small rats than spiders. They are to me yet more conclusive evidence for atheism.

  25. Well, I think we can put the panda debate to rest, now that the Ig Nobel Awards are out: see Biology Prize.