LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Conservationists should "pull the plug" on giant pandas and let them die out, according to BBC presenter and naturalist Chris Packham.
"Here's a species that, of its own accord, has gone down an evolutionary cul-de-sac," Packham told Radio Times magazine.
The 48-year-old believes that money spent on conserving the panda would be better invested in other animals as the species is not strong enough to survive alone.
"It's not a strong species. Unfortunately it's big and cute and it's a symbol of the WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature) -- and we pour millions of pounds into panda conservation."
"I reckon we should pull the plug. Let them go, with a degree of dignity ..."
Giant pandas are confined to forest areas high in the mountains of southwestern China and have to consume large quantities of bamboo to survive.
They number around 1,600 according to the WWF (www.wwf.org.uk), and are threatened by agriculture, logging and China's increasing human population.
But Packham's views are not widely shared.
"It is a daft thing for Chris to say, and an irresponsible one," Dr Mark Wright, a conservation science advisor for WWF, was reported as saying by British media.
"Pandas have adapted to where they live. They live in the mountains where there is plenty of the bamboo they want to eat.
"It's like saying the blue whale is in an evolutional cul-de-sac because it lives in the ocean," Wright added.
Packham, who is president of Britain's Bat Conservation Trust and vice-president of the Wildlife Trusts, also saw a grim outlook for endangered tigers.
"I don't think tigers are going to last another 15 years," he said. "How can you conserve an animal that is worth more dead than alive? You can't."
(Editing by Steve Addison)