In Dublin’s Mansion House, a crowd gathered to select a city mascot from a motley crew of endangered species.
The event was part of the opening night of The Festival of Curiosity, Dublin’s annual celebration of the intersection of art, science, technology and design.
On Thursday night (23 July), the art of comedy collided with the case for biodiversity as five speakers lobbied to have their ugly animal elected Dublin’s minging mascot.
But it seems it was all over even before it had started as a democratic system of making as much noise as possible for your favourite candidate revealed the first presentation of the night as the winner, and the lesser horseshoe bat became the ugly face of Dublin.
Ugly animal preservation
This unique pitch session was hosted by Simon Watt, head of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, which raises awareness of the plight of less-attractive endangered animals to get the support they need to stay alive — through comedy, of course.
The succinct message of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society — and the subtitle of Watt’s book — is, simply, we can’t all be pandas. And, while conservation efforts for the adorable teddy-bear-like panda get plenty of attention, there are numerous animals on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species that don’t look as cute as a plush toy but need our help all the same.
Bats beat bees, crows, moles and hippos
Physicist Shane Bergin made the case for Bombus distinguendus, or the humble bumblebee, while comedian Andréa Farrell put her backing behind the crow honeyeater with the argument that ‘average-looking birds’ also deserve recognition.
Nanoscientist and Bright Club founder Jessamyn Fairfield treated the crowd to a ukulele tribute to the giant golden mole and astrophysicist Joseph Roche tried to woo the crowd with a GIF-filled presentation for the pygmy hippo.
But it was science educator Catherine McGuinness’s energetic call to give the lesser horseshoe bat mascot status that was as convincing as it was entertaining.
Protecting ugly animals
In Ireland, the lesser horseshoe bat is chiefly found in the western counties, but there’s an undeniable link between bats and the capital thanks to Dubliner Bram Stoker and a batty little book he wrote called Dracula.
Not only is the lesser horseshoe bat quite ugly (apparently that’s a horseshoe-shaped nose, not a portal to hell, on its face), but the European population of this species is in decline.
Watt will be raising awareness of this and other unattractive threatened species with the family-friendly Ugly Animals Roadshow, which runs in the Smock Alley Theatre this weekend as part of The Festival of Curiosity.
Main image of lesser horseshoe bat via Alexandre Roux/Flickr