Who Wants to Save the Aye-Aye?

One of my zoology professors used to refer to it as "The Bambi Syndrome"—us hairless bipeds tend to gravitate towards cuddly megafauna like the panda; we're ready to empty our pockets to pull them from the precipice of certain doom. But can you get people rallying for an obscure species of clam? Does anyone really get pumped about saving the tuna? What about the almost grotesque-looking aye-aye, which, according to Slate got hit so bad with the ugly stick that conservationists are going to pieces trying to figure out how to persuade people that its unique genetic heritage is worth giving a damn?

Everyone loves a cute face. For humans, something about large heads, languid eyes, and flat faces appeal to something visceral inside us, not coincidentally, much like a baby's face does.David Stokes, a conservation biologist at the University of Washington wanted to study why we preferred one type of animal over another. In a recent paper in Human Ecology Stokes analyzed hundreds of pictures of penguins found in mainstream photography books. He discovered that out of the 17 species of penguins that exist in the world, publishers favored three species in particular, with "a warm dash of color, either yellow or orange or red, around the eyes of bill." Humans, it seems, are meticulous even in our pickiness:

Conservationists, he argued, must understand the ways that aesthetic appeal can be used to motivate the public—and then try to promote the "less attractive" creatures by highlighting their most endearing features.

Beauty is only skin deep, right? Tell that to the aye-aye. ::Slate

Tags: Conservation


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