Which do you like better: A cute panda, or a slimy cave salamander? This documentary is about the fight to preserve species that might otherwise be forgotten. After all, while tigers and pandas are the iconic figureheads of biodiversity, they’re not the only animals that need our help.
While adorable-looking animals can easily collect millions in donations, many less appealing species are at risk of dying out, silently. In order to raise awareness of their plight, Simon Watt founded the “Ugly Animal Preservation Society” in 2012.
His approach to protecting wildlife was simple: comedy. “It’s not easy to make people understand that protecting unattractive or supposedly gross animals is important,” he says. At his performances, the British entertainer presents animals like the grumpy-looking blobfish, the algae-encrusted Mary River turtle, or the remarkable long-nosed monkey. At each performance, the audience votes for a winner, who is then crowned ‘the ugliest animal of the evening.’
Tonight, it’s a 30-centimeter-long, pale pinkish salamander with stubby little legs and gills, known as the olm. Not much to look at, but endangered all the same. Germany is home to only seven olms, who live in a cave in the Harz region. These remarkable animals are over 80 years old, and haven’t reproduced. Yet, their struggle is virtually unknown.
You won’t find an olm on a poster for an animal conservation — blind salamanders are, typically, a hard sell. But that’s about to change: Markus Mende of the region’s tourism office is committed to turning the slimy olm into a superstar. To do this, he’s enlisting help from a local advertising agency. Will they manage to make this creature popular enough for people to donate money to help preserve it?
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