Friday, May 27, 2011

Squid vs Panda

Squid as mascot. Love it.

The giant squid, Architeuthis dux, first photographed as recently as 2005, is as long as a New York City bus and boasts ten articulating arms. The compelling creature could also be a symbol of ocean conservation, mused Matt Walker in his BBC blog.

Conservation people call them charismatic megafauna. In simpler terms, they are memorable mascots of honorable missions or great causes.

The giant panda used by the World Wildlife Fund comes to mind. It is a classic, and wildly successful as it is almost universally recognized.

Ironically, the panda was not the product of some marketing brainstorm but more a practicality. It was chosen in the days well before color printing was readily available so it had to be easily distinguishable on black and white letterhead, according to Matt's blog.

Although the practical makes a good tale, the success of the WWF panda is about emotion. The word charisma even implies charm and appeal. The brilliant idealists from Futerra Communications already established that conservation efforts are more effective if they go for the heart more often.

There are certain animals that evoke an emotional response from people and that makes them worthy of calendars, t shirts, and coffee mugs.

If it helps save the oceans, I'll tattoo them on my forehead. Though that might do more harm then good as people may have trouble listening to a man with whales, sea turtles, and sea otters inked across his dome.

The case for the squid lies in its mystery and seeming solitude in the deep dark cold of the sea. It is grand in both scale and drama. Although deeming it "cuddly" might be a stretch, it is a lovable beast.

Also, the giant squid is vulnerable to the onslaught currently pounding the oceans. Ocean acidification and deep sea fishing can kill off the animal's small populations.

The giant squid is also representative. About 92% of marine species are invertebrates – animals that lack backbones. And though estimates vary, there may be anywhere between 178,000 and 10 million such species living beneath the waves, according to Matt's blog.

The jury is still out on the giant squid as symbol for the oceans urgent plight, but it does evoke the imagination and anything that gets the juices flowing cannot be all bad. And yes, the oceans need all the help they can get.

See Matt's full blog here.
Futerra Communications.
World Wildlife Fund site.

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