The Underdogs

I read an article that talked about the different aspects of endangered species and why some are more popular than others and how it’s decided which ones will be promoted. There are thousands of endangered species, so I’ve often wondered why some are always advocated for while some I’ve never even heard of. Well, they’re reasoning is that some are more relatable than others or easier on the eye. Would people rather see a giant, majestic lion or A babirussa, or “pig-deer”?

Lion

Probably not the pig deer. So, they take the cutest or magnificentest (My head says that’s a word. It’s a word) and the animals that most people like and paste to the face of their organization.

Isn’t that so sad? Judging another living things worth based on its ‘beauty’? People seem to finally getting away from that mentality when it comes to humans, but animals are suffering from it as well. The places I got this information usually talked about these animals with a detestable tone. While I will admit that some are easier to look at than others, I’m not talking about them in a condescending way. I only want to draw attention to them and despite how ‘ugly’ they are, they benefit our world and that is more important.

Trent Orr of Earthjustice said it best when he said, “You can’t disregard any of the pieces of the puzzle if you want to save all the pieces of the puzzle. You can’t kind of cherry-pick and say, “Oh, yes, let’s have a world where there’s charismatic mammals but let’s ignore the minnows.”

Most species play a critical role in maintaining the health and integrity of their ecosystem, and are therefore indirectly important to human welfare. Such ecological roles include nutrient cycling, pest and weed control, species population regulation, cleansing chemical and organic pollution from water and air, erosion control, production of atmospheric oxygen, and removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

I wanted to find animals that weren’t the cutest ever, but still largely beneficial to the environment, but the list of endangered species is just too huge. Instead, I just went to find endangered species that weren’t as ‘loveable’ as the common lion, panda, so on and so forth. Not to say that those aren’t important because they are, very much so and I could easily talk about them because there still isn’t enough danger being stopped. They’re still being poached for their furs and body parts, but there are so many people advocating for them. What could I say that everybody hasn’t already heard? If they can’t make everyone care then how can I? Anyways, I’ve comprised a list of ‘underdogs’ if you will and found the information that I could on them.

Most species play a critical role in maintaining the health and integrity of their ecosystem, and are therefore indirectly important to human welfare. Such ecological roles include nutrient cycling, pest and weed control, species population regulation, cleansing chemical and organic pollution from water and air, erosion control, production of atmospheric oxygen, and removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

 

Now, I know what you are thinking. This must be a digitally altered plop of goo, right? Nope. This is really how it looks. You can’t get farther opposite than the lion end of the spectrum than talking about the Blob fish . It lives at depths of up to 800m. It is rarely seen by humans but it lives at the same depths as other ocean organisms, such as crabs and lobsters and other edible sea creatures.

As a result the fish, which are inedible, is being dragged up with other catches by trawler fishermen and that is why they are endangered.

They can’t survive the drastic change in pressure from where they live and the surface as they are reeled in. The Blob fish is a type of fish found off the coast of Australia and Tasmania.

The flesh of the Blobfish is primarily a gelatinous mass with a density slightly less than that of water. This allows the fish to float above the sea floor without expending energy on swimming. Its relative lack of muscle is not a disadvantage as it primarily swallows edible matter, mostly urchins, mollusks and crustaceans that float in front of it. The reason that the Blob fish can survive at such a depth is also what gives it such a unique look (some would say ugly), foregoing a gas bladder (found in most fish to keep them buoyant) the Blob fish is almost entirely comprised of gelatinous substance, this keeps the Blob fish from sinking as the density of the goo is less than that of the sea where they are found. They don’t actually have any muscles at all, so they just float in the same spot most of the time waiting for their next meal.  A lot of sites talk about this fish, but they all say the same thing, so I never found any really original information about the effects it would have, if it did become extinct, but each extinction brings the eco system out of balance.

Perhaps the most effective way to help it is to think about your seafood choices and check the  sustainable seafood cheat sheet which lists species which are good options, as well as those which you should be wary of (usually depending on where the fish came from or how it was caught), and those which you should avoid, full stop. You can now also get sustainable seafood card for your iPhone as well. A number of organizations put them out, and tailor them for your specific geographic region.

http://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/extinction-threatens-worlds-butt-ugliest-fish.html

Purple Burrowing FrogThe diet of the purple frog predominantly consists of termites.  This species has a narrow mouth with a small gape, preventing it from catching and consuming larger prey items. Its strong head and pointed snout helps it to penetrate underground termite niches, and a fluted tongue may allow this species to suck up its prey from subterranean burrows. With its poor vision, this frog presumably depends on smell and tactile cues to detect and locate prey. It also consumes ants and small worms.

The burrowing and mound-building activities of termites increase the rate of percolation of rainwater and aeration of both the top and subsoil keeping the underground soil temperature low and the moisture content high. It may therefore benefit burrowing amphibians like the purple frog to live in close proximity to termite colonies, which improve the quality of their habitat as well as providing a food source. In India, the purple frog from the southern Western Ghats may be the only known amphibian species that is a fully underground forager. Others are either open burrow feeders or diurnal burrow dwellers that are open ground feeders in the night. It presumably occurs in undisturbed forest as well and apparently does not survive in open, completely clear habitats.

The main threat to the purple frog is believed to be ongoing forest loss for coffee, cardamom, ginger and other species for cultivation. There are no specific conservation measures ongoing for this species.

Again, I could not find any good information what their extinction would mean for the environment. I looked up the effects of termite damage and even then I could only find how it affected humans. I guess we’re the only ones that matter, right? Well I assume if they eat the structure of your house then they would eat trees in the wild probably to a damaging extent. These frogs probably help curve that back a bit, but that’s just a theory.

Helmeted Hornbill It lives in primary semi-evergreen and evergreen lowland forest, up to 1,500 m. In particular, it prefers rugged terrain, especially in foothills, and can persist locally in selectively logged forest.

They supplement their fruit and berry diet with insects, tree frogs, eggs and the nestlings of other birds.

Its dwindling rates are credited to forest loss in the Sundaic lowlands have been extremely rapid, owing partly to the escalation of illegal logging and land conversion, with deliberate targeting of all remaining stands of valuable timber including those inside protected areas. Forest fires have also had a damaging effect (particularly in 1997-1998). The magnitude of these threats may be allayed by this species’ tolerance of hill forest, which is under less pressure from logging and agricultural conversion. It is prized by hunters, although centuries of hunting have meant that it is very shy and wary, and therefore capture rates may be relatively low. Their beaks are solid keratin, it can be used as a reddish ivory-like substance for carving.

Since their endangerment is mostly due to deforestation, here is a couple of things you can do to help stop deforestation:

  1. Go paperless.
  2. Recycle and buy recycled products.
  3. Look for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification on wood and wood products.

Anglerfish- Through a chemical process known as bioluminescence, this photophore can produce a blue-green light similar to that of a firefly on land. The fish uses this appendage like a fishing lure, waving it back and forth to attract its prey

Guys just beware. I heard a folklore once about this guy who complained about his wife too much and he turned into the first ever male anglerfish. The deep sea anglerfish has an extremely unusual method of reproduction. The male angler is completely different than the female. It is about the size of a small finger and black in color. When a male angler matures, its digestive system degenerates, making it impossible for it to feed on its own. It must now find a female or die of starvation. The male angler has small hook teeth, which it uses to attach itself to the female. Once he bites into her skin, he releases an enzyme that dissolves the skin of his mouth and of her body. The two become fused together and their blood vessels join as one. The male will spend the rest of its life joined to the female like a parasite, getting all of his nourishment from her body. A female can carry up to six males on her body at a time. This bizarre method of reproduction helps to ensure that when the female is ready to spawn, she has a mate instantly available. The female will lay her eggs in a thin sheet of gelatinous material two or three feet (about one meter) wide and about 30 feet (9 meters) long. This thin sheet of eggs floats free in the sea until the eggs hatch into tiny larvae. Once hatched, the larvae swim to the surface and feed on plankton. As they mature, they return to the depths below.

With a fool proof system like that, how in the world are they endangered?

Well, many species of anglerfish are fished commercially throughout the world. They are compared to lobster in taste and texture. In Japan, anglerfish is considered a delicacy and can fetch a premium price.

I couldn’t find any more information on why they are endangered. Each site I found talked about its uniqueness, but no one seemed to be able to explain why it was endangered which means there is no explanation of what you can do about it except to not eat it. It kind of made me wonder though because people are so shocked by this ‘horrid’ creature, so do the people eating it even know what it looks like? If not and even if so, I think a good way to get them to lay off it, would be to post a picture at every table as a showcase of what exactly they’re eating. I know that would work for me.

Vultures– there are several species of vultures, some in the U.S., some in other parts of the world.

I really didn’t think these were too bad, but they were on several of lists I looked at that talked about the ugliest species. So were turtles by the way, so it just goes to show how differently people can see things. Globally significant populations of three species of critically endangered vultures still persist in northern and north-eastern Cambodia, red-headed vulture, white-rumped vulture, and slender-billed vulture.

Vultures do not hunt live animals. Instead, they feed on carrion. Carrion is the meat of an animal that is already dead which is extremely, extremely important. Wherever they live, vultures are important because they help clean the environment. They eat dead animals before the rotting bodies become a source of disease.  They keep the environment free of carcasses and waste, restrict the spread of diseases such as anthrax and botulism, and help control numbers of pests such as rats and feral dogs by reducing the food available to them.

These species have undergone dramatic declines of 95-99% on the Indian subcontinent due to the poisoning by the livestock-drug Diclofenac ingested from animal carcasses. Though this drug appears not in use in Southeast Asia, populations have decreased there as well, most probably because of a decrease in food availability due to shrinking wild ungulate populations.

How you can help:

There is quite a lot of information out there about vultures because again, they are so vital to our survival. When I wrote about how to help bees there was a lot of things that people could do at home to help them, but for this it does not seem to be the case.

Make sure your in the know about different organizations and how they’re helping. Knowing something without being able to put that information into action is sometimes frustrating, so if you want to help then donate time or money to their organization or write to them and ask them what you can do. The following sites are for organizations that I found working to save vultures.

http://www.save-vultures.org/

http://www.justgiving.com/specieschampions

http://www.wildlifeactfund.org/how-to-help/

Learn about and participate in International Vulture Awareness Day- http://www.vultureday.org/2012/index.php

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