If there's one thing naturalist Chris Packham should know, it's to never in a public forum wish ill will toward perhaps the cutest, cuddliest animals on the face of the planet.
But that's exactly what he did recently, drawing ire from nature lovers and panda enthusiasts, alike.
The crux of Packham's argument: It costs a lot of money to continue to save the species, and with a finite amount of resources, that money might be better spent elsewhere.
Earmuffs, Tai Shan, earmuffs.
"The panda is a species of bear that has gone herbivorous and eats a type of food that isn't all that nutritious, and that dies out sporadically. It is susceptible to various diseases, and, up until recently, it has been almost impossible to breed in captivity. They've also got a very restricted range, which is ever decreasing, due to encroachment on their habitat by the Chinese population. Perhaps the panda was already destined to run out of time."
Packham also ponders whether if they weren't so darn cute, the black-and-white fuzzballs might have gone extinct quite some time ago:
"The last large mammal extinction was another animal in China – the Yangtze river dolphin, which looked like a worn-out piece of pink soap with piggy eyes and was never going to make it on to anyone's T-shirt. If that had appeared beautiful to us, then I doubt very much that it would be extinct. But it vanished, because it was pig-ugly and swam around in a river where no one saw it. And now, sadly, it has gone for ever."
So had to bring up the pig-ugly dolphins, didn't you Packham? That's a low-down dirty trick. The National Zoo, for one, isn't going to stand for it.
"The reason they need our help is that people are driving them to extinction," Brandie Smith, senior curator at the National Zoo, told ABC News. "We are taking over their habitat, so we are the ones that have to help save them now."
Packham is feeling the heat for his remarks, even if his opinion might be spot on. But he's sticking by his statement -- even if it means checking his car every night for signs of black and white fur close to his brakes.
"I really upturned the apple cart with what I said and I'm sorry I upset people," Packham told a UK tabloid. "But I am glad it has raised a debate and that was always my intention. I don't hate pandas, I love cuddly animals. I love all animals."