Our two animal lists to this point have had a marked theme in terms of animal grouping, covering both cats and sharks. I suspected either birds of prey or possibly reptiles might have been next but then a chance question causing me to run to the defence of a particular species, sparked a chance conversation in which two absolutely wonderful but much maligned animals were discussed.
I’m not going to spoil the surprise, they will be on the list but there are lots of animals humans just seem to hate! Some of these it is an historic association that lingers, ancestral fears live long in our traditions, our mythologies, folklores, symbolism and cultural miasma can carry hundreds of years. Perhaps there was a time when these animals were a portent, fit to be feared for the implications of their sighting, but those days are long gone.
Perhaps those animals carry with them associations of past traumas, events that assisted in killing swathes of humans across the world, in which case maybe there is some justification in vilifying the poor creature but is that so warranted in a world where even novel viruses can have a vaccine developed for them in 12 months and where bacterial infections require a course of antibiotics to heal?
Look, there are some things that will justifiably not be on this list. Snakes, for example.
When I was looking for ideas of animals a lot of people hate but others love they came up and, I, too, love snakes. They’re awesome, remarkably diverse in their distribution, especially given that they are a reptile that exists in the Arctic Circle! Filling an incredible amount of niches, there are snakes that glide, snakes that tumble, snakes that side-wiggle, snakes in the rivers, snakes in the sea – eating all sorts of stuff. But, we have history. I’ve discussed the ‘Snake Detection Hypothesis’ a couple of times, it’s the idea that primate visual acuity primarily developed as a response to snake threats and that many primates, including humans, have specific visual acuity for seeing snakes. They might not be a danger now, but they were once.
The same is true with spiders. Ecologically valuable, exceptional diversity of form and function, but we just find them innately creepy and any arachnophobe will tell you we have a special sense – a spidey-sense if you will – for when they are around. We don’t need to ‘see’ them, somehow we just know. It’ll be pitch black, there will be no sight, no noise, no creeping touch on your skin but you’ll stick on your phone torch and there, on the wall, is a house-spider as big as a fist and you just knew!
Jellyfish came up, definitely a creature I think many people find icky or repulsive, but also actually dangerous even if most of them only give people a mild sting, it’s an inconvenience. It’s a genuine reason to think “Fuck you, jelly!” Plus some of them can give you a string so bad you beg to die, some of them can actually kill a person – So yeah, they’re definitely ‘misunderstood’ but the hesitance is for a real reason.
Anyone who wants to give any biting insect, any bug, leeway, can be thrown in a room with a trillion hungry mosquitos and get desiccated. Mozzies and their buddies the Plasmodium genus of parasites are possibly the second biggest killer of humans in history behind humans, and the rest of them are a nuisance. If you’re not reactive to bites, well done you won the genetic lottery but I’m not one of those people and the late spring/summer/early autumn game of “What the fuck is eating me!?” isn’t fun!
What I will say, a lot of people will say “Why do mosquitos exist anyway?” Erm, because they do! I know it seems circular, it’s because it is, welcome to life. It does not have to justify itself, if it is here it has survived the same near-4 billion year long ordeal you and your ancestors did and they are just as valid as lifeforms as you are. Making any of these biting insects extinct because they are a nuisance to us would likely have knock on effects to the myriad species they interact with in other ways. Just because you do not perceive its purposes in the great chaotic maelstrom of life, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have one. Chill.
So what will most of these species be? Well likely things we consider pests, intruders, unwelcome visitors. I already have a few of them in my head but I am also looking for a more international perspective. The notion of a bothersome, boring or taken-for-granted species is not universal, they depend very much on habitat and distribution. What we find annoying in the UK is not necessarily true of mainland Europe, North America or Australia. I want to delve into their wildlife and find out what they go “Oh bloody <such and such a species>!” about.
Whatever I come up with, unlike before it will be an interesting, diverse list covering a range of different creatures. This excites me! Whilst delving deep into a specific type of animal gets you a solid understanding of them, this is like reef diving. We stay shallow and we get to enjoy the vast range of species, shapes, sizes and colours. We don’t ever watch one thing too closely, but we get a little look at a lot of things.
So I’m excited, I hope you are too! As we cover the Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals!
Honourable Mention: The Spotted Hyena – Much maligned, associated with death, disease, thievery and scavenging, actually an amazing, effective predator with interesting genitals. It would definitely have made the list but given that I have recently written an article about them I’m leaving them off! Read about the spotted hyena here.
Catch up with the rest of the Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals top ten!
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals: Bats
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals: Pigeons
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals: Wolves
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals: Foxes
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals: Aye-Ayes
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals: Pika and Moles
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals: Vultures
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals: The European herring gull
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals: The Brown Rat
Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals: The Wasps