Pandas are undeniably cute, cuddly, and well loved around the world. From YouTube videos to photos shared between friends and across social media, pandas enjoy the privilege of being taken care of despite their endangered status.

Did you know that every panda in the world belongs to China? In this way, pandas are a critical part of China’s image. So it stands to reason that China wants to do everything in its power to channel money into keeping that image alive and well. But should they?

Panda numbers are low, that’s true, but why is this? Pandas have a peculiar trait in that they are reluctant to mate with each other, which contributes to their low numbers. Many naturalists argue that this is a basic evolutionary instinct and if pandas do not have this instinct, it stands to reason that they should die out. In fact, if it weren’t for human interference, they likely would have already.

Yet, millions of pounds are channeled into keeping pandas alive. On a planet where there are hundreds of other species dying out due to humankind’s harmful actions, this might seem unfair. If pandas are unable to mate to save themselves, then it is unclear whether humans should be using economic resources to save them. Global warming, climate change, and our actions are the reason millions of other animals – elephants, tigers, lions, crocodiles, rhinos – are dying out. Many argue that this money should instead be going towards saving them.

Many scientists and naturalists argue that it should. Unfortunately, pandas’ cute and cuddly appearance often marks the way we humans think. A panda can take precedence over an ugly dangerous shark or a tiny bee, just because of this. And with pandas a big part of China’s world image, it’s unlikely they will stop their funding, either.