Zoologist Lucy Cooke draws attention to some of the world’s least attractive animals
Which species pulls at your heartstrings - а panda or а toad? A lion or a dung beetle? When it comes to emotional attachment, research funding, global popularity and conservation support, the fluffier your fur and the bigger your eyes, the better your chances - unless zoologist Lucy Cooke has a vote.
She’s on a one-woman mission to show the world why some of the most unlovable animals are actually the most interesting and deserving of our attention, study and protection.
Cooke’s popular blogs, online videos, films and TV programmes bring her characteristic sense of humour and unusual storytelling style to а serious message: |f we only care for the best known and best loved species, other enormous|y important parts of the web of life could vanish forever. With her
unconventional attitude, she's taking advantage of the power of the internet to reach a new audience that more traditional wildlife programmes have yet to tap.
'My goal is to persuade the unconvinced', says Cooke. 'A lot of conservation messages are difficult to hear; they make people feel guilty. I think humour is the sugar coating that helps people swallow the pill. If you manage to make someone laugh while you tell them something important, they'II stick around and listen to more.'
Cooke worries about what she calls 'the tyranny of the cute'. 'There are so many television shows about koala bears and kittens,' she observes. 'A|| the attention seems focused on a handful of charismatic "celebrity" animals. Even scientists get less funding for animals that aren't sweet and cuddly. In fact, large mammal species appear in 500 times as many articles in scientific journals as threatened amphibians.' She adds: 'Weird, freaky creatures fascinate me because they tell an amazing evolutionary story. I’m interested in all of nature, not just the shiny, fluffy bits.'
Amphibians - animals like frogs that live both on land and in water - top Cooke’s list. 'Over а third of amphibians are going extinct; it’s the worst extinction crisis since the dinosaurs were wiped off the planet. Yet, I couldn't convince anyone to commission a film about it. That motivated me to start my Amphibian Avenger blog.' The wide|y read blog showcases creatures that rarely attract the spotlight. 'Frogs are such a fascinating miracle of evolution that I could study them forever.'
Amphibians a|so occupy a crucial spot in the middle of the food chain. 'If you remove them, (line27) everything else goes haywire,' she notes. 'When amphibians go extinct, birds and snakes that eat them also disappear. Since amphibians breathe through their delicate skin, they are very vulnerable
to pollution, climate change, and disease. That makes them fantastic barometers of the health of ecosystems. If amphibians aren't doing well, chances are their overall environment is sick.'
One of Cooke's most popular online videos is about sloths - extremely slow-moving mammals that live in trees. Cooke would like to help elevate the status of sloths, animals that she insists are unfairly laughed at and misunderstood. 'They've always had а reputation for being lazy and stupid.' In fact, 'slothfulness' is the key to the animal's success. A slow metabolism allows the sloth's liver to process poisonous substances found in the leaves it eats. Moving slowly, also keeps it hidden from predators. 'My video showed the world how interesting they are,' Cooke says.
The wobbly-nosed proboscis monkey, dung beetles, bats and more get their moment in the sun thanks to Cooke. 'It’s about telling their stories in a way that engages a wider audience. I want people to share my sense of wonder, amazement and love for these creatures. Once you understand why they’re ugly or odd, l hope you’ll appreciate and want to save them as much as I do.'
Find the best answers
31. What are we told about Cooke in the second paragraph?
A) She hopes to make more conventional nature documentaries in the future.
B) She is communicating her ideas to people who have not heard them before.
C) Her approach is more suited to the internet than to other media.
D) Her manner shows a lack of concern about the problems she mentions.
32. According to Cooke, what is many people's attitude to nature conservation?
A) They are embarrassed at their lack of knowledge of the subject.
B) They are reluctant to think about the subject.
C) They find it hard to take the subject seriously.
D) They are tired of hearing so much about it.
33. What is Cooke’s main point in the fourth paragraph?
A) lt is а mistake to limit the types of species that are studied carefully.
B) Too much research is being done into animals that are endangered.
C) Scientists are wasting public money on unnecessary animal studies.
D) Television programmes rare|y concentrate on larger species.
34. Cooke says she started her Amphibian Avenger blog because
A) she wanted to raise funds to make a film.
B) she felt inspired to start a search for a new species.
C) she realised she would have to inform people herself.
D) she knew she would always have something interesting to write about.
35. What does 'goes haywire' in line 21 mean?
A) tends to do better
B) carries on as it always has
C) finds ways of coping
D) stops working as it should
36. Cooke’s video about sloths is an example of
A) why she believes it is more important to save some animals rather than others.
B) how other scientists have been unwilling to tell people about their work.
C) how she is trying to change people’s minds.
D) why some animals deserve their reputation.