Was the The Ugly Animal Preservation Society right to nominate the kakapo for the title of ugliest animal on the planet?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But it turns out there are some really stupid beholders out there.
OPINION: The kakapo has been voted the world's second-ugliest animal. Says who? The Ugly Animal Preservation Society.
This result is less testament to any aesthetic shortcomings the fabulous green parrot may have - and that's a highly contestable issue in itself - than to the sheer giddiness of online polls. And you can even vote in our own online poll here to have your say on how handsome the kakapo is.
All that stops us from calling the result a vile defamation is that it may, arguably, have the defence of honest opinion. Even then, we have our doubts.
In this case the retort "you cannot be serious" might be taken more literally. The society is a loose association of standup comedians. A trade, we might add, that is no stranger to gratuitous provocation.
The society champions endangered but visually unappealing species on the basis that the cutesy critters like pandas shouldn't get all the preservation attention.
A noble-enough cause in itself. But that is not licence to start spuriously appropriating any hard-case creatures into the ranks.
In what world is the kakapo ugly? With all due respect to certain Southland Museum and Art Gallery occupants, kakapo aren't the ugliest creatures in even the deep south let alone the entire planet.
Yet, ridiculously, they have been outvoted for unattractiveness only by the blobfish - a creature that looks like an inverted milk pudding wearing a prosthetic nose.
Which means it is perceived as somehow less appealing than, say, the angler fish, which is roughly 80 percent teeth, and not smiley teeth either.
Or any one of a host of warty, slime-secreting, gigantically genitalled creatures whose primary purpose on this planet seems to be to encourage pre-adolescent boys to watch nature documentaries.
On top of which, the society's founder, Simon Watt, seems to be justifying the vote on matters that have less to do with perceived ugliness than with conduct unbecoming a parrot, which is a different thing entirely.
One might accept that the famous southerner Sirocco didn't present his species' best face to the world when he engaged in highly publicised yet uninvited carnal activity on the cranium of Mark Cawardine during the filming of a BBC nature series. But there's a difference between being a badly behaved parrot and a rubbish one.
The kakapo is at the ungainly evolutionary stage of being not-so-well-designed for flight anymore, but not quite aware of the fact, which has occasionally regrettable outcomes when they sometimes optimistically launch themselves. Surely, though, ugliness must be determined pre-impact, rather than afterwards.
Anyway, it was just last May that the British-based wildlife education charity Wildscreen asked people to vote their favourite species. The winner wasn't tigers or elephants or pandas or any of those legion of fuzzballs out there. It was kakapo.
- The Southland Times
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