Good or bad PR can just come down to timing

I was reminded of that a couple of years ago when Crystal Ski had a launch party for their new season brochure including an unusual/exotic ski location - Mount Lebanon. Less then 24 hrs later the Israelis invaded and Lebanon was - at least temporarily - wiped off the tourist map.

I was reminded of it this morning when I started reading the daily summary of press releases from Travmedia.

The Born Free Foundation have written a stinging critique of zoos who keep Pandas as part of a conservation programme, especially Edinburgh Zoo.

Born Free urges Ministers and Edinburgh Zoo to abandon panda plan.

Following the sad news of the death of a newborn panda in a Japanese zoo, the Born Free Foundation has written today urging decision-makers to consider the global picture instead of continuing to support Edinburgh Zoo’s misguided plan to import pandas from China.

Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundation, said today: “When will we stop making excuses for zoos? Education, conservation, research are all high-brow justifications for the inexcusable. And the case of Edinburgh’s plans to bring in giant pandas makes the case. The chances of successful breeding are tiny. The educational value is, at best, superficial. And the research seems to me more about keeping these creatures locked up for life than genuinely contributing to improving their survival chances in the wild.”

In Europe, giant pandas have been a novelty feature of zoos in England, Germany, Austria and Spain, yet it is believed that there have only ever been two successful births of pandas in Europe, and only one of these has involved natural conception. Between 1982 and 2007, despite the presence of pandas in zoos, no cubs were born in Europe. It has long been acknowledged that panda reproduction in captivity is extremely problematic, and many zoos have resorted to techniques such as artificial insemination in their efforts to produce cubs. In the majority of cases in Western zoos, captive-bred panda cubs do not survive. In addition, giant pandas can suffer from behavioural problems in captivity, including repetitive “pacing, pirouetting, head-tossing, self-biting, somersaulting, masturbating, swaying, tongue-flicking, sitting up, paw-sucking, cage-climbing, and regurgitating” (Swaisgood RR et al. (2003). Zoo Biology 22: 347-354)

In March 2007, at the height of the hysteria surrounding the polar bear cub Knut at Berlin Zoo, disturbance from the increased number of zoo visitors was blamed as the stress-related cause of death of female panda Yan Yan. Berlin Zoo currently houses a solitary male panda, Bao Bao.

Laura Zimprich from the German animal protection organisation Animal Public e.V. said: “I have known the panda Bao Bao (who is nearly my age) since I was a little child. Since that time, I have experienced so many things in my life and yet Boa Boa is still in the same place, still staring at the same walls. Berlin Zoo has kept giant pandas for 28 years – in that time, there have been no successful births, but two giant pandas died. There has been no benefit for the pandas in the wild. I believe that the keeping of giant pandas in Western zoos does not help to save the pandas. It only brings money for the zoos.”

STOP PRESS: Zoo Atlanta, one of a handful of Western zoos with giant pandas, has just taken its "Panda Cam" offline amidst fears that something is going badly wrong with its newborn panda. The baby panda is now believed to be in intensive care.

How unfortunate for Shangri-la Hotels & Resorts whose news release: “We Love Panda” programme launches at Changri-la hotel, Chengdu appears almost immediately underneath in Travmedia's roundup!

Shangri-La Chengdu staff with giant pandaShangri-La Hotel, Chengdu’s “We Love Panda” programme was recently launched with a staff visit to the hotel’s adopted giant panda in Yaan Bi Feng Xia Resort -- a temporary home for giant pandas from the Wolong Giant Panda Reserve that was damaged in the Wenchuan earthquake on 12 May 2008.


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