Friday, September 13, 2013

Just because they're ugly....

So lately I have seen a few articles and blog posts regarding bias in conservation efforts. Quick, think of an endangered species. It's a pretty safe bet that you thought of a popular animal - Polar Bears, Pandas, Tigers, etc. - and not something like a deepsea fish, snake, or spider - not to mention protists, fungi or plants.

I get it, though. A commercial featuring adorable and beloved animals threatened with extinction catches peoples attention, and is likely to get donations. If a commercial was made with strange, bizarre, and downright UGLY animals, it might not capture our hearts (and wallets) in quite the same way. That is unfortunate.

Every animal, plant and fungus is vital to the ecology of its environment. Removing any species has detrimental effects on the other species in its habitat, regardless of how adorable it is.

I doubt the situation will change anytime soon, unfortunately. Polar Bear cubs wrestling in the snow are irresistibly cute, and they attract donations. Images of decompressed Blobfish aren't going to be as effective. Showing an endangered fungus? Forget about it. It's a rare individual who thinks "OH NO! WE HAVE TO SAVE THE MUSHROOMS!", but "Save the Whales" is one we can get behind.

How can these neglected creatures get publicity and win people to their cause? Maybe if their importance was stressed. For example, an endangered spider species may not evoke our sympathy - but without spiders, we would be overrun with disease-spreading pests. An endangered fungus may maintain a symbiotic relationship with an important crop species, and without it, the plant may be weak, or even unable to grow. Right now, pollution is killing off coral, and as a result, entire ecosystems are failing. ENTIRE ECOSYSTEMS!!

So look at that blobfish. It's hideously ugly - and it needs our help.