It’s easy to argue for saving cuddly pandas and regal tigers, but what about nature’s more homely endangered creatures?
That’s the challenge being taken on by the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, a conservation group which assembled a list 8 threatened animals whose values go far beyond their looks.
Looking like a lemur that’s been on an all-night bender, the creature from Madagascar feeds by gnawing holes in tree trunks and then extracting grubs with its long fingers. One look at this aye-aye and it is clear why natives view it as a symbol of death. It is endangered as a result of habitat destruction, which is especially tragic since it already looks homeless. Nevertheless, the aye-aye plays an important role in the environment, serving the same niche as that of the woodpecker in North America.
Visayan Warty Pig
Pigs aren’t especially good looking, but this hog from the Visayan Islands in the Philippines takes it to a whole new level by sporting giant warts on its face. Scientists don’t know what the warts are for, other than giving them a reason to saddle the pig with a cruel name. However, it’s possible the warts serve as protection during fights with rival pigs. Unfortunately, the pigs are also critically endangered, their population plummeting by 80 percent in just three generations due to hunting and habitat destruction.
It’s almost embarrassing to look at this thing, as if you accidentally walked in as it stepped out of the shower. The naked mole-rat, native to East Africa, has poor eyesight, which is probably the saving grace to its self esteem. Their large teeth help them burrow underground in search of tubers to feed on. They live in giant social groups, because what’s a nudist without a colony? These animals live for an unusually long time for a rodent and also rarely get cancer, making them interesting research subjects to learn how we can improve our own health.
The humphead wrasse from the Indo-Pacific region looks like it’s perpetually horrified, almost as if it is cursing its maker for its own existence. The hump on its head grows as it ages, lending more to its goofy appearance as it gets older. The wrasse has a slow breeding rate and is threatened by habitat destruction, overfishing and the aquarium trade, but it plays an important role in consuming toxic and difficult animals like sea hares and crown-of-thorns starfish.
Giant Titicaca Lake Frog
This frog has extra skin folds that helps it absorb more oxygen from the air in its high altitude environment of Lake Titicaca in the Andes. This frog’s folded skin has even given it the nickname “Titicaca scrotum frog,” as if its official name wasn’t embarrassing enough. Sadly, this frog is being eaten to near-extinction by locals, which makes you wonder who was the first guy to volunteer to put one of these in his mouth.
Bet you can’t guess how the proboscis monkey gets it name. Native to Borneo, this primate has a large nose that hangs below its mouth, making it look like some nightmarish version of Gonzo from The Muppets. Experts believe the nose, which is bigger in males, is a sign of sexual attractiveness. Sadly, scientists smell trouble for these species, as their habitat is increasingly being destroyed.
Looking like something fresh out of alien horror film, the hagfish’s name doesn’t raise any grand expectations as to its appearance. It has no jaws, produces slime, and feeds by burrowing into animal corpses and eating them from the inside out. While your normal instinct may be telling you to kill it with fire, know the hagfish does play an important role in keeping the environment clean and healthy, sort of like an aquatic vulture.
Purple Pig-Nose Frog
It’s a real life Jabba the Hutt! This is another creature on the list whose name leaves little to the imagination, suggesting frog biologists are not only uncreative, but maybe sorta bullies as well. The pig-nose frog is native to India and spends most of its time underground (who can blame it), emerging for only two weeks every year to breed. The frog was found barely a decade ago but is already being threatened with extinction by deforestation.
Jokes aside, while these animals might not look good on a conservation group’s logo or as the star of a TV commercial, their crucial roles in the environment mean the world would look a lot worse without them.