Whenever appeals are made to help save an endangered species they are often times accompanied by photographs of fluffy, cute, and friendly looking animals. When the adult animal is just average in appearance campaigns are often made using the species most adorable baby faces with warm over-sized and sympathy arousing eyes. The cuter animals have always been better able to tug at people’s heartstrings. What about the plain or even ugly animals? Some of these endangered species may be even more endangered because of their looks.
Regardless of how attractive an animal is they are all an important part of a balanced ecosystem. It might be even more important to focus on the endangered animals that are not so easy on the eyes. The cute and cuddly looking animals will always be there for the first grade class animal adoptions, or for a Christmas gift (donation) idea for the grandma who is hard to shop for.
Animals like the Western black rhino may be less likely to grab attention and support for conservation efforts and may be more prone to being poached. It is mere speculation, but if a poacher is going to kill an animal that they know is protected it seems like the one with an oddly shaped head and a wrinkled crusty face might be a little less likely to spark a guilty conscience. This may be even truer in the event that the ugly animal is capable of killing a human.
Despite efforts to protect the Western black rhino, a subspecies of the black rhino, they were declared extinct less than two weeks ago. Their main threat had been humans who continued to hunt them, despite being on the critically endangered species list, in order to take their horns which are then used in folk medicine.
Another not so beautiful, but critically endangered species is the Gooty Spider, a type of tarantula that is prized as a pet among collectors who are willing to pay $500 to own one. They occupy only a 39 square mile area which has been damaged by logging. This endangered species has been more endangered because of its’ looks.
In Mexico, the axolotl salamander has been on the critically endangered list because of the severe pollution affecting the water where it lives. The only thing that has likely saved them from extinction is researchers breeding them for study, as they are capable of regenerating their limbs and other portions of their body. The axolotl salamander falls into the “cool, but not cute” category.
Another salamander, the Chinese giant, is preferred on a plate rather than in the water. They can grow to be up to six feet long and produce eerie vocalizations that sound like children crying. However, they are harvested as a dinner delicacy by the Chinese.
In the United States a much lesser known beetle is on the “critical” list. It is the American Burying Beetle, but is also known as the giant carrion beetle. These beetles are disappearing and pesticides are believed to be at fault. Burying beetles are a very important part of the ecosystem, as they help to break down decaying matter. They are unique in the insect world because they actually nurture their young by feeding and caring for them. Their habitat has gone from 35 U.S. states down to only five.
There are a lot of other animals that are less likely to be recognized publicly as being in need of protection, but they remain there waiting for help. In order to gain more attention and donations that will allow people to preserve these animals, they might want to get some panda suits for all of them. Everyone recognizes the World Wildlife Fund panda logo. If conservationists can just convince the Chinese giant salamander to wear a black and white fuzzy suit and suppress its’ creepy cries it might be able to win over some hearts and any attached pocketbooks. It just isn’t right to let some species continue to be more endangered even just because of their looks.
By Lara Stielow