Why are ugly animals more endangered than others?

In our podcast Wait a minute !, we wonder. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), one of the largest environmental NGOs in the world, 40,000 species are threatened with extinction worldwide. Some 1,900 are in France. Some of these animals, however, seem to have a better chance of surviving because they are beautiful. Why are so many means implemented to protect the koala, and so few for the Chinese salamander? Why are ugly or unloved animals more threatened than others in the preservation of biodiversity?

“Of the 40,000 endangered species in the world, only 26% are mammals. Monkeys, giraffes or lions enthrall the crowds and collect lots of donations. Conversely, the dune caragouille, a small snail found on French beaches, is of less interest”, analyzes Maud Lelièvre, president of the French committee of the IUCN, the guest of this episode.

What place for anthropomorphism?

If the aesthetic characteristics of species affect us so much, it is because anthropomorphism comes into play, ie attributing human characteristics to what is not human, to an animal for example. “We are sensitive to what is cute, to what is baby, to all the animals in which we can project ourselves. Obviously, for the blobfish [une espèce de poisson rose visqueux vivant dans les abysses] it’s more difficult to plan,” continues Maud Lelièvre.

But ugliness is not the only criterion for exclusion. An animal considered dangerous, such as a shark, wolf or bat, will have more difficulty obtaining funds to be studied and, ultimately, protected. “There are not enough means put in place in the conservation of species”, criticizes Maud Lelievre. However, all species, considered beautiful or ugly, are important for biodiversity and human survival, because they are all linked.

Listen to the rest of the interview with Maud Lelièvre by clicking in the player above. Wait a minute ! is the mainstream news podcast of 20 minutes. You can listen to it on all online listening applications and platforms, such as Apple podcast, Spotify, Deezer or Podcast addict for example. To write to us: [email protected]

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