Animals with big eyes, fluffy tails and cute noses are easy to love. But what about those with tentacles, slimy skin or a large throat pouch?! Luckily the Ugly Animal Preservation Society is here to fight their corner. Education Officer Chris Jarvis shares some tales from a special event…
Comedy met conservation on Saturday night, as the Museum teamed up with Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust, compere Simon Watt and the Ugly Animal Preservation Society. During the evening, six comedians put the case for their own neglected animals in need of conservation: the Scrotum Frog; Christmas Island Frigate Bird; Kaluga Sturgeon; Slimehead; Okapi, and Yak. The audience then voted to choose the official mascot for Oxford, but which of these lovely uglies did they choose?
The Scrotum Frog
Chosen by Iszi Lawrence, this unfortunately-named amphibian’s population in Lake Titicaca is now dwindling. It’s threatened by the introduction of alien salmon for the angling fraternity and is also blended to make a medicinal frog frappe by Andean locals with strong stomachs!
Christmas Island Frigate BirdSome may find its inflatable throat pouch off-putting (in the same way the Scrotum Frog brings certain disturbing images to mind), but not advocate Eleanor Morton. This critically endangered seabird is one of a family of only five species that grace our oceanic skies and deserves our attention.
Kaluga SturgeonHideous and aggressive, these formidable fish grow to a ton in weight and have suffered a population decline of 80% over the last 90 years: we humans like to eat their eggs and their spawning grounds are now severely polluted. Without action we may lose one of the largest fresh water fish in the world. Kaluga Sturgeon champion Paul Duncan McGarrity made the case for this fugly fish.
SlimeheadNigel Lovell chose this sociable, deep sea fish which has been severely overfished due to the remarkable success of a rebranding campaign. You might know it better as the ‘Orange Roughy’ seen in fishmongers since the 1970s. But just remember it’s a ‘Slimehead’ – your dinner guests might not want to see that on their menu!
OkapiA rather beautiful (to my mind) relative of the giraffe, which looks like it put on a zebra’s pyjama bottoms by mistake! Rosie Wilby’s case for the Okapi was strengthened by a wonderful demonstration of its courtship behaviour involving a member of the audience and an 18-inch purple tongue*!
*Photographs cannot be shared.
Chosen by Teiran Douib, and not to be confused with the domestic yak, the wild yak is listed as vulnerable in its native Himalayas due to poaching, cross-breeding and climate change. These wonderful creatures are blessed with electrically non-conductive fur to survive electrical storms. They are one of the largest of all cow species, reaching up to 2.2 metres at the shoulder. However, their udders and scrotums are particularly small and hairy as protection against the cold.
Once the comedians had made their pitch it was time to decide on an ugly animal mascot for Oxford. Voting was frenetic and passionate as the issues at stake clearly hit home. But finally a champion emerged…
The winner was…the Kaluga Sturgeon! Yes, it’s official, Oxford’s Ugly Animal Mascot is a one-ton, aggressive fish that occasionally upends boats. As Paul Duncan McGarrity pointed out, it’s a shame that Oxford doesn’t have a long-standing boating rivalry with another city where this might come in handy…