Pandas. They are as marketable as heck and after all, what’s not to love? As a species we spend hours fawning over videos of panda’s frollicking and getting up to mischief. When an elusive baby panda is born, the most cynical of broadsheet newspapers go gooey eyed and print huge pictures of the baby panda in question; using the sort of intensely reverent language that might well have been used at birth of Jesus Christ. I of course love pandas as much as the next person: and snow leopards and polar bears for that matter. Species conservation is clearly something that both interests and worries many humans worldwide. However, it is clear that when we think of endangered species our thoughts turn to the beautiful, the lush furred and quite frankly the most popular.
Human beings are arrogant and shallow and we are happy to arrange the world to fit our aesthetic tastes. We reduce complex ecosystems to what is the cutest, fluffiest and cuddliest. A planet of loveable teddy bears. Burbots are now extinct. Do you care? Do you in fact know what a Burbot is? Burbots are pretty bloody important is what they are. In fact, in many parts of the world they hold great cultural significance. They aren’t too photogenic though. There are in fact a number of less eye catching species on the brink of extinction that aren’t getting the public attention that they so desperately need. Can you think of many friends who regularly donate money to the cause of the grumpy looking blobfish, or indeed, many eccentric aunts who intend to leave their life savings to the bobble nosed proboscis monkeys?
This is an issue that has gained the attention of plenty of environmental activists in recent years. Perhaps most notably, this has led to the formation of The Ugly Animal Preservation Society, ran by Biologist Simon Watt. This society was formed with the intention of raising awareness about ugly endangered species through the medium of comedy. The society runs shows up and down the country where Comedians and Scientists put on comedy performances where they promote a particular endangered ugly animal. At the end of the night, the audience takes a vote from the animals presented and chooses one to be the mascot of that particular branch of the society and therefore to champion its cause.
This is “comedy with a conservation twist” and gives people the opportunity to learn about the importance, and indeed existence, of animals that aren’t given a vast amount of attention by the mainstream media. I care about this not only as a person of bog standard attractiveness who might well be left to go instinct were I an entire endangered species. Sure I could probably write ten articles on how this reflects pretty poorly on our priorities as a society. However, today I am coming at this from my, albeit limited, biological knowledge.
Many ugly endangered species have a vital role to play in our fragile ecosystem or scientific development and it is crucial that they should be allowed to survive for future generations. For example, the endangered and non too pretty naked mole rat doesn’t get cancer, baffling Scientists everywhere. Its existence could well be beneficial to the development of cancer research. Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder but there really isn’t anything subjective about the rapid destruction of the rich varieties of species on our planet.