An elephant is killed every fifteen minutes to supply an insatiable and unsustainable demand for ivory. A rhino is killed every eleven minutes for horns that have as much medicinal effect as my big toenail. Wild lions could be gone in fifteen years as we teeter on the brink of the world’s sixth mass extinction. But it’s not just the charismatic, iconic animals in trouble. Forget pandas – ugly animals should be protected too. The Ugly Animal Preservation Society draws attention to less adorable endangered species, and I can’t wait for the show to come to Australia!
Conservation issues are usually pretty depressing, so it’s refreshing for a comedy evening to take a conservation twist – scientists dabbling in comedy and comedians dabbling in science. Each has to pick an endangered (and ugly) species, and has ten minutes to champion it. At the end the audience votes, and the winner becomes the mascot of that regional branch of the society. In London it’s the proboscis monkey. In Edinburgh, the branch’s mascot is Australia’s own gob-faced squid. The comedians take different approaches – some try to prove that their animal is not so ugly. Others admit, “They are hideous, but you know what, some days I wake up a bit rough myself!” But the main thing is to draw attention to the plight of these rare animals. These are species people don’t know much about, yet they all play a vital part in our ecosystem.
Just because an animal is unattractive, doesn’t mean we can ignore it. Take humble earthworms for example. Without them, tonnes of rotting organic rubbish would build up within months. Fly maggots perform a similar function. Micro-bats are worth billions of dollars to agriculture yearly, by eating their weight in insects each night, while fruit bats are the vital pollinators and seed-dispersers of Australia’s great forests. So spare a thought for the less sexy species. They’re important too!