Environmentalist organisation On The Edge is trying to save lesser-known, ugly, endangered animals from extinction by putting them front and centre in video games.
So far they have released two games: Save the Purple Frog and Kākāpō Run, with plans for more on the horizon.
In the game Save the Purple Frog, the player is the Indian Purple Frog. Players dodge trains, owls, snakes, and other life-threatening hazards so they can get to the breeding ground in order to preserve their species.
In Kākāpō Run, you play a flightless parrot from New Zealand. The object of the game is to help reach a protected sanctuary.
Why don’t we hear more about these ugly critically endangered animals?
There are only 135 Purple Frogs and 248 Kākāpō’s in the wild. They are amongst the most endangered species in the world. So, why don’t we hear as much about them? According to Dr Alex Bowman, the Director of Natural History at On the Edge, this is because cute animals get all of the attention:
“The most beautiful animals are definitely not the most important, but they do get the limelight, unfortunately.”
And this is backed up by research. Less aesthetically pleasing animals attract less research and less conservation funding according to a recent 2022 study. The study found that fish, reptiles and mammals get 468 times the funding compared to insects, spider and worms, irrespective of their importance in our ecosystems.
“Everyone looks at the bumblebee, this kind of fuzzy little pollinator that we kind of really relate to its work ethic… Wasps need our attention just as much as those cuddly little chonky bees that we see campaigns about every day of the week,” says Dr Bowman.
How else is On The Edge saving animals?
On the Edge, whose name stands for Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered, see themselves as story tellers trying to change the narrative around lesser known but equally important critically endangered species.
As well as creating video games, On The Edge runs innovative digital campaigns to inspire a fondness for these amazing animals. These campaigns include informative videos that appeal to people and show a wonderful side to these animals.
Dr Bowman added: “For those animals that we find annoying or scary or irritating, we really just need to change the narrative. That’s how we protect them. We capture the imagination. We connect with people on an emotional level and we rebrand them.”