|Image from Scientific American|
"The koala is a cutie, but does it steal too much of the limelight? A new study adds quantitative detail to an ongoing debate over whether such “conservation mascots” receive publicity and funding to the detriment of animals typically deemed less attractive. Researchers at Murdoch University and Curtain University, both in Western Australia, combed through 14,248 journal papers, books and conference proceedings about 331 Down Under mammals and found an overwhelming bias against investigations of “ugly” species. In fact, 73 percent of the publications covered marsupials, such as koalas and kangaroos. In contrast, rodents and bats received 11 percent of the attention, even though they made up 45 percent of the mammals included."
"Even worse, most research into these aesthetically challenged animals is at the surface level, including taxonomic descriptions that merely name the species and provide measurements, says lead author Patricia Fleming. And without knowledge of their habitats, food sources and behaviors, these creatures are harder to protect against threats that could lead to extinction. Such information gaps afflict animals well beyond Australia, too. “There are many taxa worldwide, such as amphibians, that we know are doing even worse and have even less research into them,” says Simon Watt, founder of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society. These organisms could be more ecologically important than the ones typically held up as worth saving. Bats, for example, help to control pest insects that can carry diseases or devastate crops."
Scientific American: Ugly Critters Get No Love - Scientists would rather study good-looking species, according to a survey of their workWow, just how important are words/terms and/or euphemisms & expressions like, "aesthetically challenged animals" or for that matter, plants, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, etc ? Clearly humans seem to know more about what they dislike, than they like. For example it's easy for humans to dislike any type of living organism if it disturbs them visually(admit it, we all love eye candy), financially(prevents us from potential profit and personal wealth, either collectively as a group or as individuals), etc. On the other side of the coin where we have folks who do appreciate nature, they will actually champion a critter or plant because it has visual appeal. Back in 2014, this actually came to light in another research paper done in the country of Kenya where wildlife conservation has the best chance of saving something if they can get people to find something positive about the critter.
"Environmental organizations in industrialized countries have long harnessed the visual and symbolic power of charismatic, “cute” and otherwise visually attractive animals in campaigns garnering public support for conservation causes"Interestingly in the study, people who perceived giraffes, gazelles and elands as beautiful to be the strongest variable explaining justification for the support for rescuing them. On the other hand, the buffalos, wildebeests, hyenas, and elephants were considered ugly and distasteful by the locals (but not lion). Here is how the ugly connotation comes into play:
"Ugliness is the strongest variable influencing support for the removal of buffalo, hyena, and elephant (but not lion). Both our qualitative and quantitative results suggest that perceptions of ugly species could become more positive through direct exposure to those species."
Influence of Aesthetic Appreciation of Wildlife Species on Attitudes towards Their Conservation in Kenyan Agropastoralist CommunitiesI can certainly understand the aesthetically pleasing appeal of Giraffes among tall Acacia trees on a picturesque African Savanna at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. But why in the world native Masai poeple dislike elephants enough not to want to conserve them ? Number of biased reasons were referenced here. Ivory trade which brings good economy if you can get away with it. Also as humans encroach on wildlife lands, many herds will raid farmlands and gardens for food. Clearly there can be more than one reason for rejecting conservation because of one's personal economy.
|Image - Hofland Expeditions|
I can also maybe understand Hyhenas & Warthogs, but why Buffulo and Wildebeests ? Unfortunately again, these are perceived as competitors to domestic livestock in grazing rights disputes. This goes against one's personal economy. While Lions got a pass in the study, it also is dependent on Lions not molesting livestock herds. None of this is at all surprising to me, because where I come from there are numerous animals, plants, even insects which are either considered invasive in their home range if their impede personal economic endeavours or just generally have less eye candy appeal. For example, take a close look at this critter below and the chaparral plant below that.
|City of Fontana file photo via AP News|
The Delhi Sands flower-loving fly
(Rhaphiomidas terminatus abdominalis)
|Image - B. "Moose" Peterson|
|Image - WrightwoodFSC|
|Image - Chaparral Institue|
Conclusion: It starts with the way Humans treat each otherBack in 2016, I wrote something similar to this. The way people treat our planet and the creatures which live within it's various ecosystems is identical to the way they treat each other. Generally it starts with the vulgar name calling and derogatory labeling of others based on race, skin colour, ethnicity, language, culture, etc. If you think long and hard here on this, is it not uncanny the similarities with the studies about most living things in Nature ?
Finally reflection on why Academics use the negative labeling
|photo by Cody Sheehy|
"This valley has a high fuel load of decadent brush. It is an ideal place to remove this brush to create fire breaks. If done correctly, this valley could return to a more natural fire regime that supports greater biodiversity and protects property"
Now, my take on the photograph is entirely different and probably opposite. This is a unique blend of forest woodland pockets and chaparral Elfin Forest. Most folks opinion of what a forest is might be Redwoods or Deciduous hardwoods in fall colour back east somewhere. Colours like Silver or Blue-Green don't cut it as a forest theme in their worldview. The main shrub in this photograph is the one I referenced above, Chamise (Adenostoma fasticulatum). It's in late summer or early fall colour with it's rusty red dried blooms. Remember what I said about research on this plant's ability of facilitating pioneer trees ? Up in northern California where far more annual rain totals are likely, the epigenetic signaling to ecto-mycorrhizal fungi like Pisolithus tinctorius no doubt is more of a common occurence than in the southlands. Look at how easily they pioneer the way for other trees. If left long enough and if we could see 100+ years into the future, no doubt large portions of this chaparral plant community will be totally replaced with this type of older growth forest system. While the trees on the far right side do look like Pinyon, all the others look to be Foothill/Digger Pines (Pinus sabiniana). Yes, they are not deep or bright forest green, but they are uniquely patterned and have a pleasing silhouette that no other pines have. The closest pines with similar form I always thought would be their coastal counsins the Torrey Pines. The Cones, Needles. colour, silhouette etc all look closely identical. I always considered these Foothill pines to be the interior Torrey Pine. There is only one thing wrong with the above photograph and that would be the non-native European Oats in the foreground. Frankly, I don't blame Cody, just his old school mentors.