The panda is an endangered species, but it’s not all black and white


“CAVA” KENNY CORDINER, the football pundit who kicks back!

What a weekend we have just had for sport. Grand National Day is always a favourite in the Cordiner household, as it’s the only time I can stick a bet on without the lovely Melody giving me the three degrees. Melody always has a punt too, and this year was no different. I sits for hours with the Racing Post, checking the form, the jockeys and the going and eventually picks Viking Blond. Melody looks at the paper and says, she says “I like’s Neptune Collognes cos he’s got a kind face”. I tells her “that’s no way to pick a winner!” but she never learns.

Speaking of picking a winner, I was caught between the devil and a hard place on Saturday when my old club, the Dons, graced the Hampden pitch in the Scottish Cup semi-final against another of my old stamping grounds, Hibs. I didn’t make it to the game myself. I had been waiting for the call from the BBC to be their neutral pundit, but it never come. No doubt my old clubs thought the same, because I never got no invite to go with neither of them neither.

Most readers will have fond memories of my extinguished Dons career, but I still sometimes get asked all the time why it was cut so short. Well, when Fergie arrived at Pittodrie, he was faced with a dressing room full of big personalities. Straight away I could tell he had the potential to do great things but he might feel intimidated by my presence and as long as I was at the club would remain something of a shrinking violin. So, to make sure that he went on to be one of the top gaffers in the history of the game, I put in a transfer request. Obviously this started a bidding war. Dumbarton, Clydebank and Hamilton Accies were all after my signature, but it was Hibs what I plumped for. I didn’t last long there though, because Melody got homesick. She never settled in Penicuik. It was a culture shock for her, I think. That and the smell. Hot Weetabix still makes her cowk. Still, I enjoyed my 3 appearances as substitute.

People ask if I have regrets but I’m glad I stood aside to let Fergie have his 35 years of 15 minutes of fame. I know he appreciates it too, because he once says in an interview about his Aberdeen days ‘The first thing I had to do was get shot of that idol Cordiner”. I seen Fergie at a dinner not long ago and thanked him for saying something so nice as that. ‘No problem, Kenny’ he says to me ’Even after all my years in football, you is still the idolest player I ever managed’.

What a gent.


PROFESSOR HECTOR SCHLENK, Senior Research Fellow at the Bogton Institute for Public Engagement with Science.

As a scientist, I’m always being asked questions such as ‘How did the universe begin?’ ‘Is time travel possible?’ and ‘Would you mind blowing into this bag, sir?’

But recently, a lot of people have been asking me about Pandas. ‘Well’, I say, ‘while I’m not an expert in that particular field, I understand that they are a form of musical-comedy theatrical production traditionally performed during the Christmas season’. And then we laugh. Albeit briefly.

The black and white bear native to South Western China has been in the news as we all waited with breath bated to see if the two currently shacked up at Edinburgh Zoo would get, as evolutionary biologists would say, ‘jiggy’. Alas, while clearly good friends, Yuang Guang and Tian Tian were unwilling to allow their relationship to get all complicated. Admirable restraint in a human; a game of extinction roulette for Pandas.

For while, with their big eyes and slovenly posture, they are extraordinarily anthropomorphic (a Giant Panda up close looks exactly like Boris Johnson in eye-liner) there is one enormous difference between them and us. We are the most successfully adapted life form on Earth; while they are what we scientists call, ‘rubbish’. Seriously, if it weren’t for our Herculean efforts they’d have gone the way of the Dodo yonks back, and while the erosion of their habitat is a big part of the problem, they’re not exactly doing anything to help matters.

The Darwinian model is often referred to as ‘survival of the fittest’. And so it probably helps to think of the Panda, in evolutionary terms, as Eric Pickles. This, after all, is a carnivorous bear that wilfully refuses to eat, not just meat, but anything at all apart from a particular strain of bamboo, which tastes terrible, but makes hard-wearing floor coverings. It can barely digest the stuff, and so has to spend 18 hours a day eating it to get up enough energy to sit still and look photogenic. It’s a wonder they ever have the energy for sex, and it’s nothing short of a miracle if that event coincides with the 36 hours a year when the female can conceive. That’s not a big window. In fact it’s not a window at all. It’s barely a cat flap.

In short, the future of the Panda is very much like St. Nicholas House. No matter how you approach it, it doesn’t look good.