The green movement has had its icons for decades. Polar bears, blue whales, pandas, baby seals, etc. They are all very photogenic, kind of like rock stars. Put them on posters or in news segments, and it's easy to attract attention.
But if being green really is about helping nature, and not just about ourselves, how pretty we think certain animals are shouldn't matter. Cuteness in the eyes of humans shouldn't factor into life and death decisions.
Obviously it is easier to attract attention and raise funds with cute pictures.
But the whole point of being green is to do what's right and not just what's easy. We need to resist the temptation to throw 'ugly' (or at least, those that aren't as cute) animals under the rug and forget about them. We need to consciously fight the 'Bambi Syndrome' and maybe even learn to love some of these ugly ducklings.
So in honor of the less camera-friendly animals out there, let's have a look at a few endangered 'ugly' specimens:
Above is a photo of the Aye-Aye, the world's largest nocturnal primate. It is so ugly based on mainstream criteria that it's almost beautiful (in a grotesque way). Unfortunately, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) classifies it as 'endangered'.
The Purple Burrowing Frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis) was only discovered in 2003. It is a chubby, 2-3 inches long amphibian with very small eyes and a rubbery skin. It lives in hills in Western India, and the IUCN also lists it as endangered.
The shoebill, also known as the whalehead, is a large bird from East Africa. They feed in muddy waters, preying on lungfish, and nest on the ground, producing only two eggs. With a population of only 5,000-8,000, the IUCN lists it as a 'vulnerable' species.
The Fen Raft Spider (dolomedes plantarius) is one of Europe's largest and rarest spiders. One of the things that make them special is that while they aren't aquatic, they can skate on water using surface tension. Wetlands are disappearing, so the Fen Raft Spider is losing its habitat.
For more on 'ugly' endangered species, see the Endangered Ugly Things blog.
The thing to remember is not to be a contrarian and like certain animals simply because they aren't beautiful in the traditional sense. There's nothing wrong with liking certain things better than others for aesthetic reasons. After all, TreeHugger isn't about ugly green solutions, and in certain situations it definitely pays to go for beauty. But when the time comes to make decisions about nature, we should try to see things from nature's eyes -- biodiversity, ecosystem interactions -- not only from human eyes. The real worth of animals is not just in how they look to us.
Follow Graham Hill on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ghill