The British public are better informed about mythical creatures such as mermaids, Ewoks and Wookiees than about the planet’s real-life fantastic beasts, according to a survey to mark the tenth anniversary of ZSL’s EDGE of Existence programme.
Few have ever heard of natural wonders such as the axolotl salamander (above) and the shoebill, according to a new survey commissioned by the international conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London).
The survey of 1,000 people was commissioned by ZSL to mark the 10-year anniversary of its EDGE of Existence programme. The initiative was set up in 2007. Its aim is to identify and conserve the world’s most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species.
This encompasses some of nature’s truly extraordinary creatures including mammals that lay eggs, to frogs that give birth through their skin.
Participants were asked to identify animals they recognised from a list combining both fantasy creatures such as Ewoks from literature and film with real-life EDGE species.
EDGE of Existence programme, a global community
The results show that 78 per cent of respondents had heard of the Gruffalo. In contrast, only one per cent were aware of the hirola (Beatragus hunteri). This is one of the world’s rarest and most threatened antelope species.
And, while 88 per cent knew about unicorns, a mere three per cent had heard of solenodons. These are one of the world’s only venomous mammals.
Similarly, the Jabberwocky, Sasquatch and Wookie all scored significantly higher than their real-life counterparts.
ZSL’s EDGE of Existence programme manager, Dr Nisha Owen, acknowledged that the survey was light-hearted. However, she said it clearly showed the importance of the work of the EDGE of Existence programme:
“We’re calling on conservationists worldwide to ensure these species receive the attention they deserve.
“In only our first decade, we’ve mapped, ranked and promoted the conservation of many of the world’s most amazing species. These are creatures that, if they were allowed to go extinct, would effectively take a whole branch of the tree of life with them.
“By creating a global community of EDGE Fellows, working on the ground to save these fantastic creatures, we’re making a real difference to their long-term prospects. But, greater public awareness of their plight is another crucial part of the equation.”
Image courtesy ZSL