Creation-based conservation for the Red Panda
The Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) has a bushy, striped tail and characteristic red/white colouration. They live in parts of central Asia. Their physical traits make them hard to classify. Some scientists think they are bears like the giant panda, others a type of raccoon. Yet others put them in their own group.1
Species versus kinds
Based on new genetic evidence, some researchers claim that the Chinese and the Himalayan varieties are two separate biological ‘species’.2 According to this concept, a species is a group of interbreeding organisms that does not interbreed with other such groups.3 Evolutionists say that the two species arose around 250,000 years ago after the Yalu Zangbu River allegedly separated them.
However, up to 10% of animal and 25% of plant ‘species’ can breed with other ‘species’, even after lengthy separation (according to evolutionary ‘dating’).4 This fact overturns the long-held evolutionary ideas of how species form. If two species can interbreed, are they even separate ‘species’?5 This just proves a point that creationists made before and after Darwin: the created kind is much broader than the ‘species’.6
A ‘species’ endangered—by evolutionary thinking
Illegal hunting has endangered the Himalayan red panda, which has become inbred. Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences suggest genetically isolating the Himalayan Red Panda from its Chinese relative to preserve it as a distinct species. Implicit in this is the admission that the two are likely capable of interbreeding. Being so similar, creationists would have thought this likely, too, indicating they are members of the same created kind. Like so many, they have only differentiated into distinct groupings fairly recently, since a pair of their kind dispersed from the Ark.
But do evolution-based conservation efforts like this isolation work? Isolation is the last thing an inbred species needs. Inbred animals have a low genetic diversity, meaning that they are more likely to inherit matching harmful mutations from both of their parents.7 Evolution-based conservation ideas might well drive the Himalayan Red Panda extinct. Does creation science have a solution?
Yes, by allowing these two members of the same created kind to breed together. The input of genes (‘gene flow’) from the Chinese Red Panda could strengthen the Himalayan Red Panda’s gene pool, saving it from becoming extinct. This would also preserve the genetic diversity of the Himalayan Red Panda by maintaining different gene variants in the mixed population.
Despite their reservations, evolutionary conservationists might in fact end up using genetic mixing to save the Himalayan Red Panda from extinction, but this would only be a last resort.2,8 In contrast, interbreeding the panda species to maintain genetic diversity is a direct application of creation science, which comes from Bible-based thinking.
References and notes
- Catchpoole, D., The bamboozling panda, Creation 23(2):28–32, 2001. Return to text.
- Hu, Y. et al., Genomic evidence for two phylogenetic species and long-term population bottlenecks in red pandas, Science Advances 6(9):eaax5751, 2020. Return to text.
- de Queiroz, K., Ernst Mayr and the modern concept of species, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 102 (Suppl 1) 1:6600–7, 2005. Return to text.
- Mallet, J., Hybridization as an invasion of the genome, Trends in Ecology & Evolution 20(5):229–37, 2005. Return to text.
- Batten, D., Ligers and wholphins? What next? Creation 22(3):28–33, 2000. Return to text.
- Wieland, C., Variation, information, and the created kind, J. Creation 5(1):42–47, 1991. Return to text.
- Cosner, L., ‘Parade of Mutants’, Creation 32(3):28–32, 2010. Return to text.
- Allendorf, F.W. et al., The problems with hybrids: setting conservation guidelines, Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 16(11):613–622, 2001. Return to text.