Jen posted a photo on her blog taken at a Chinese zoo.
As I mentioned almost a year ago in my post on What’s wrong with Pandas? the bear relative is an embarrassment. These tiny cocked failures in natural selection will soon die out, leaving an evolutionary niche to fill for most ridiculous large mammal. Arguable humans could take this role but we’ve proven to be quite successful with our opposable thumbs and clever minds. After pandas, who is even close to being the mammalian species of scorn? Who will nature next select for the rubbish dump?
An obvious choice is the manatee. Like pandas they are, shall we say, plump. Unlike pandas this is an advantage in the water than they live in and their shape allows them to move swiftly through the water in search of prey. Admittedly their prey happens to be sea grass, algae and mangrove leaves. An environment that we humans are quickly destroying with pollution and building on the land that provides for mangrove trees.
We humans are also adding to the destruction of manatees by running them over in our speedboats. Sensitive skin and blubber may protect them from the aquatic elements and those few predators who risk attacking the large mammals but it’s no protection from the cutting blades of a rotor.
Sadly for the manatee, little children like to cuddle toy pandas but the sight of the foam filled leather sack of a toy manatee will just make your kids hate you.
The fabled armadillo is another popular choice for the evolutionary waste bin. Although heavily armoured and equipped with strong claws for digging these creatures are generally peaceful. They tend to eat a variety of grubs and insects unlike the crap pandas who eat only bamboo and happy thoughts. Leeching the latter right out of the hearts of small children until they reach their teens.
Some armadillos live in borrows which protects them from predators while others flee from them into thorny undergrowth, using their plated hides for protection. Sadly it is humanity again that threatens these gentle creatures. Not only to we encroach on their environment but we make use of armadillos in experiments to study leprosy since they, along with mangabey monkeys, rabbits and mice (on their footpads), are among the few known non-human animal species that can contract the disease systemically. We also use them to test different diseases and cures as they reproduce four genetically identical quadruplets in each litter.
What about our cousins on the evolutionary tree: the great apes, specifically the gorilla? Unlike humans these creatures are rarely violent and prefer to keep to themselves.
Despite sharing 98% of their DNA with humans they are very different from us socially, preferring a simply life of foraging. They are capable of complex communication, even learning sign language to communicate with humans. Why they’d want to is beyond me. I’m human and I barely want to communicate with most other humans.
Once more it is humanity that threatens this mammal. We destroy their habitat and hunt them for their body parts. We even expose them to our diseases, wiping out thousands of the gentle creatures. Perhaps it is the fact that they remind us of ourselves that makes us destroy them? Pandas at least have the error of being ridiculous, while apes have only the error of being related to us.
It would be easy to list tigers or any of the great cats as evolutionary dead ends but these magnificent animals engender so much sympathy that it is hard to imagine us allowing them to become extinct. Besides which the only real reason for their decline is human over hunting. All we need to do to allow them to thrive is leave them alone.
Who’d want to mess with anything that could bite your arm off anyway? Pandas can barely manage to sit on someone as their method of defence. The big cats are dangerous.
Tigers are so… very… pretty. They are just too pretty for God to let them die. Huh?
So, which mammal is doomed next? Should we do anything about it or let nature take her course?