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India’s weirdest frog and an ‘ugly shark’: These species aren't cuddly but they still need saving

A rare angel shark spotted off the coast of Wales.
A rare angel shark spotted off the coast of Wales. Copyright Jake Davies / On The Edge
Copyright Jake Davies / On The Edge
By Charlotte Elton
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We need to ‘change the narrative’ around ugly animals, conservationists have urged.

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‘You’re India’s weirdest frog.’

It’s not the most conventional pull line for a video game. But, according to a bold new conservation organisation, it’s pulling in the players.

On The Edge - an organisation dedicated to reconnecting people with nature - has launched two video games to draw attention to some of the Animal Kingdom’s less attractive creatures.

In Save the Purple Frog, players dodge owls, snakes, trains and other life-threatening hazards to make a hopeful dash for the breeding ground.

In Kākāpō Run, you’re a flightless parrot from New Zealand trying to reach a protected sanctuary.

Along with various digital storytelling campaigns, On The Edge uses these games to highlight animals that have historically receive less conservation attention, explains Dr Alex Bowman, director of Natural History at On the Edge.

“The most beautiful animals are definitely not the most important, but they do get the limelight, unfortunately,” he says.

Why do certain animals get all the attention?

From pandas to snow leopards, the animal kingdom’s most beautiful creatures dominate the discussion around conservation.

But ‘ugly’ animals need saving too.

Studies have shown that less aesthetically pleasing animals attract less research and less conservation funding. According to a 2020 research paper, vertebrates like mammals, fish, and reptiles get 468 times more investment in conservation efforts than invertebrates, like insects, spiders and worms.

A French study from 2022 found that the ugliest fish were the most at risk of dying out - yet they were also the most ecologically important.

It makes sense - it’s easier for a charity to fundraise by selling a stuffed toy of a panda than of an obscure insect.

But neglected or disliked species are often ecologically crucial. Wasps, for example, are extremely valuable members of a functioning ecosystem, regulating populations of caterpillars, spiders, and green flies that wreak havoc in gardens.

But they get just a sliver of the attention that bumblebees do.

“Everyone looks at the bumblebee, this kind of fuzzy little pollinator that we kind of really relate to its work ethic,” said Bowmer.

“[Wasps] need our attention just as much as those cuddly little chonky bees that we see campaigns about every day of the week.”

How is On The Edge changing opinions of unloved animals?

The On The Edge foundation aims to flip the script, using innovative digital campaigns to inspire a fondness for these unloved creatures.

The name stands for Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered. EDGE species include the purple frog and Indian pangolin. Collectively, these unique animals represent billions of years of evolutionary history.

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But we could lose them forever unless we act fast, pouring money into habitat restoration and dedicated rewilding programs.

Climate change will cause one in six of the planet’s species to be lost forever if we fail to take action on the crisis, according to a 2015 study.

“For those animals that we find annoying or scary or irritating, we really just need to change the narrative. That's how we protect them,” he said.

“We capture the imagination. We connect with people on an emotional level and we rebrand them.”

Watch the video in the player above to find out more about EDGE animals.

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Video editor • Hannah Brown

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