The next time I complain in this space about cold Canadian winters, remind me that I could be living in someplace really horrible, like, say, California.
When they aren’t being beaten by the police, California residents must deal with mud slides, wildfires, earthquakes and a major plastic surgeon infestation. As if that wasn’t bad enough, La Jolla beach homeowners once woke up to find that thousands of giant squid had washed up on shore and died in the hot sun.
“[Gag],” said one resident, as municipal workers removed more than 12 tons of dead squid. “[Retch, wheeze, gasp],” he added.
Aside from watching Californians turn green and start a desperate search for designer gas masks, the most interesting thing about this story was what didn’t happen. When dolphins beach themselves, entire seaside towns drop everything to whisk them back into the water. As far as I can tell, no one tried to send the squid back home. I have a few theories as to why:
1) Those weren’t municipal workers doing the cleanup, but representatives of the upcoming Calamari Festival.
2) It’s hard to rescue something that can grab and hold all four of your limbs, slap you around and still have at least three tentacles tied behind it’s back.
3) Squid aren’t cute.
This last point bears thinking about because ugly animals are just as important to the environment as the cute ones. For example, how would mother goldfish keep their fry in line if they weren’t able to point at carp and say, “If you keep making faces like that, you’ll end up looking like him.”
No, seriously, all animals are important in a balanced ecosystem. So it seems to me that we need a special wildlife protection group dedicated to protecting Earth’s unlovables.
The first hurdle in setting up something would be picking a suitable name. For instance, which is better from a marketing perspective: The Poisonous Creature Defense League (Motto: Bring A Pair Of Thick Gloves), or the Squishy, Slimy Protection Fund (Motto: Fish May Be Icthy But They’re Still Our Friends!)
Fundraising will also be an issue. Traditional wildlife groups raise money by selling things like mugs or t-shirts with photos of cute animals on them. However, you’d need to prepare your supporters carefully. For instance, if January’s feature creature is a big, hairy tarantula, I can see thousands of innocent desk calendars suffering sudden death by baseball bat.
Celebrity endorsement in the form of TV commercials is also out of the question. For one thing, us viewers would never get to learn what animal it is we’re supposed to support:
SALLY STRUTHERS: The plight of these poor creatures just breaks my heart. Every year thousands of them die needlessly. Save the-ARGH!! GET IT OFF! [whap!] GET IT OFF ME! [whap! whap!]
Even animal rights celebrities would have trouble:
JEAN-MICHEL COSTEAU: And here ve have zee beeyootiful stinging jellyfish, vich every year dies by dee tousands, becau- Tabarnac! Sacre-bleu! Oh, zee pain! Zee pain!
Perhaps a direct adopt-an-animal plan would work better. Adoptive ‘parents’ would have to have strong stomachs for the letters home though:
Dear Foster Parent:
Thanks to your generous donation, local aid workers have been able to build a special protected habitat and life skills training area. Today I learned how to stalk and disembowel chickens. In a few months, they say I’ll be well enough to produce venom strong enough to drop an elephant. I’ve enclosed pictures so you can see my fang development.
Of course, some animals aren’t ugly so much as they suffer from branding issues. Nobody ever thinks to Save the Pogonophore! because no one can spell pogonophore. And no one ever talks about saving the blue-footed booby, because, well, you’re laughing, aren’t you?
So the next time you worry about the media and our image conscious society, remember, endangered species have it worse. For them, image isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.