I got very annoyed the other day; the Zoological Society of London (Institute of Zoology) released what they termed a ”landmark report”. I guess you can all immediately see why I was annoyed. The headline of the press release very clearly states that global wildlife populations are on course to decline by 67% by 2020. What their report actually says is that global vertebrate populations are on course to decline.
Plants and invertebrates are a much bigger and more important part of global wildlife than the tiny fraction of the world’s species contributed by those animals with backbones. I instantly posted a Tweet pointing out that for a scientific institution this was a highly inaccurate statement to be promulgating.
My comment (still ignored by them) at the ZSL press release
The ZSL despite being copied into the Tweet, have so far (three weeks later), not deigned to reply. I have taken the ZSL to task before with equally little success. To give them credit where it is due however, just over four years ago they did release Spineless, a report about the global status of invertebrates, although the press release associated with this was a much more low-key affair then the recent one that I took exception to 🙂
Dr. Ben Collen*, head of the Indicators and Assessments unit at ZSL says: “Invertebrates constitute almost 80 per cent of the world’s species, and a staggering one in five species could be at risk of extinction. While the cost of saving them will be expensive, the cost of ignorance to their plight appears to be even greater”.
ZSL’s Director of Conservation, Professor Jonathan Baillie added: “We knew that roughly one fifth of vertebrates and plants were threatened with extinction, but it was not clear if this was representative of the small spineless creatures that make up the majority of life on the planet. The initial findings in this report indicate that 20% of all species may be threatened. This is particularly concerning as we are dependent on these spineless creatures for our very survival.
Unlike Ryan Clark who was also stimulated to write a protest blog in response to the same article, I do have something against vertebrates; they suck away valuable research funding and resources away from the rest of the animal kingdom (Leather, 2009; Loxdale, 2016) and distract attention and people away from invertebrate conservation efforts (Leather, 2008; Cardoso et al., 2011). I have highlighted two sentences in the above quotes from the Spineless press release for very obvious reasons and wish that ZSL had taken these words to heart. If, however, you go to their research page it would seem that these were only empty promises as less than 10% of their projects deal with invertebrates. It is at times like this that I take comfort in the knowledge that I am not alone in despairing of the unfair treatment that invertebrates and the people that work with them suffer.
Sums it up nicely, despite the focus on marine invertebrates 🙂
I had a few minutes of relief after posting my Tweet about the ZSL and their lack of scientific integrity, but I still felt frustrated and annoyed. The need to do something further preyed on my mind, and then I had an idea. What about highlighting the charismatic mega-fauna that the ZSL and other similar bodies persist in ignoring. I went on a quick photographic safari and in a few minutes was able to produce a little visual dig at the fans of the so-called charismatic mega-fauna.
Going on safari as an entomologist
I thought this might raise a few appreciative likes from fellow entomologists and got back to work. I logged into Twitter a couple of hours later and was gratified, if somewhat surprised, to find that my Tweet seemed to have generated a bit of interest and not just from my followers.
Appreciative tweets and comments from fellow invertebrate lovers – click on the image to enlarge it
I had also been translated into Spanish!
Reaching the non-English speaking world 🙂
Then the Twitter account for the journal Insect Conservation & Diversity asked if anyone had other examples and generated a bit of a mini-Twitter storm with some great additions to the list.
I particularly liked the Buffalo tree hopper.
And then something I didn’t know existed happened –
I got a Gold Star!
This number of likes far exceeded my previous best-ever tweet, by a very long way. Seriously though, it made me think about what makes some
My previous best Tweet.
Tweets so much more retweetable than others. My invertebrate safari tweet didn’t go viral, my understanding is that viral tweets are those that are retweeted thousands of times, but it certainly had an impact on people’s lives, however fleetingly.
Having an impact, albeit not viral.
For those of you not up on Twitter analytics, what this means is that as of November 9th 2016, more than 33,000 people had seen my Tweet, of which almost 2000 had taken the trouble to click on it to make it bigger. Of those 33,000 who saw it almost 400 went to the trouble to click the Like button and 260 re-tweeted it. On the other hand, my serious taking the
Not so great an impact, but at least it was read by a few people 🙂
ZSL to task tweet, attracted much less attention, although one could argue that it was dealing with a much more serious issue. That aside, responses like this and the other many positive outcomes I have had since I joined Twitter make me even more convinced that Tweeting and blogging are incredibly useful ways of interacting with both the scientific community and general public and getting more people to truly appreciate the little things that run the world. Hopefully the ZSL, government funding agencies and conservation bodies will take notice of the plea by Axel Hochkirch (2016) to invest in entomologists and hence protect global biodiversity.
A timely reminder (Hochkirch, 2016)
And finally, to end on a lighter note, please nominate and highlight your own favourite ‘charismatic mega-fauna invertebrates’. There are many more out there.
Another view of the Buffalo tree hopper http://www.birddigiscoper.com/blogaugbug133a.jpg photograph by Mike McDowell
Cardoso, P., Erwin, T.L., Borges, P.A.V., & New, T.R. (2011) The seven impediments in invertebrate conservation and how to overcome them. Biological Conservation, 144, 2647-2655.
Hochkirch, A. (2016) The insect crisis we can’t ignore. Nature, 539, 141.
Leather, S.R. (2008) Conservation entomology in crisis? Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 23, 184-185.
Leather, S.R. (2009) Taxonomic chauvinism threatens the future of entomology. Biologist, 56, 10-13.
Loxdale, H.D. (2016) Insect science – a vulnerable discipline? Entomologia experimentalis et applicata, 159, 121-134.
*The lead author of the report, Ben Collen was a former undergraduate student of mine, but hard as I tried, I was unable to convert him to the joys of entomology 🙂