Sunday 3 July 2011

Darwin for Penguins

Taho Potiki on defective penguins:
I am no advocate of killing or maiming animals, cute or otherwise.

But a lost penguin such as the one washed up on the Kapiti Coast could have been left to its own devices to die naturally. The reality is the bird is either dumb or genetically flawed.

A Darwinian argument would be that a penguin whose homing mechanism failed as spectacularly as this bird's did, probably shouldn't breed. It is one thing to be concerned about whether the bird is going to carry diseases back to the Antarctic, but what about its defective DNA?

Instead we pour all sorts of resources into its medical resuscitation, including the use of a genuine, top quality surgeon usually reserved for operating on human beings who are often on long, long lists waiting for years for their rightful turn for important surgery.
I guess I'm a sad case, but I get warm glow from that the poor penguin was helped. And if Happy Feet becomes the new Shrek, the investment will likely pay off even if just measured in the consumption value of the drama.

Potiki's column is great fun though - do read the whole thing for his musings on eating penguin. And he's dead right about the bias towards charismatic megafauna. I'm not so convinced that that bias is a bad thing: if we like penguins more than we like snails, oughtn't we invest more in penguins all else equal? Yes, we'd do more for conservation by spending more on endangered species. But can't cute be in the social welfare function too?

New Zealand snails are terrifying when viewed close up.

And here's the Penguin chaser:

1 comment:

  1. Of course its ridiculous to spend money on this penguin.. but we would be neither human or advanced without this degree of nuttiness.