Move over, giant panda — the blobfish, a squat, pink, gelatinous deep sea creature, is the new face of endangered species after being voted the global mascot of a conservation group called the Ugly Animal Preservation Society.
The unsightly fish beat out a giant parrot called the kakapo, a Mexican amphibian called the axolotl, the wrinkly Titicaca water frog, the proboscis monkey and seven other candidates in a two-week online vote, the society announced Thursday at the British Science Festival in Newcastle, England.
"We love the panda, but we think it gets far too much attention," said Jon Fitzmaurice, who volunteers as the project manager for the Ugly Animal Preservation Society and also works for the British Science Association.
"Loads of other animals are just as important. The problem is a lot of them are quite ugly. People don’t want to put them on t-shirts and in commercials."
According to the society, the blobfish spends its life "gently bobbing around" the ocean at depths of 600 to 1200 metres, dining on crabs and lobsters, and its gelatinous look is a result of adaptations that help it maintain its buoyancy. It adds that although blobfish are inedible to humans, they are threatened by fishing trawlers that accidentally catch them while fishing for tastier species.
Fitzmaurice said the Ugly Animal Preservation Society was founded about a year ago by its president Simon Watt to raise the profiles of animals that need to be conserved, but might not be getting the attention they deserve due to their aesthetic challenges.
"Conservation is such a depressing subject," he added. "We want to make it fun."
The society has been holding comedy shows at science festivals and similar events around the U.K., where it has garnered a number of regional mascots, including the gob-faced squid (Edinburgh) and the naked mole rat (Brighton).
They proved so popular that the group decided to hold a worldwide online vote for a global mascot, in partnership with the National Science + Engineering Competition for 11- to 18-year-olds in the U.K. Videos endorsing various ugly animal candidates received nearly 100,000 views on YouTube and thousands of people voted, the society reported.
Fitzmaurice said the blobfish is intended to be the society’s global mascot forever, but it may reconsider if it feels other animals need a little extra publicity.