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Gift a shag for Christmas, ugly wildlife group says

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Gifting a shag to someone this Christmas could save lives says a group of wildlife supporters showcasing ugly but rare species for virtual adoption, including the chatham shag.

“We love you, even if you’re ugly”, is the message from the Endangered Species Foundation.

They’ve chosen six weird and wonderful rare native species that are perhaps less cute, but still at risk of extinction, and they are trying to encourage people to sponsor and support them to help their survival.

All of them are on the Foundation’s Top 40 Most Endangered list.

“They are not necessarily what you’d describe as charismatic megafauna … which is what you often see out there,” foundation general manager Natalie Jessup told Lisa Owen.

“There’s about 7500 species that are at risk of extinction, and our philosophy is that we love them even if they’re overly fuzzy or not particularly attractive, or they may just be really tiny.”

Many native species missed out on support despite struggling, because they were not typically what people thought of when then decided which causes to support, she said.

“Historically we’ve given to the cuter more fluffy big animals, but there’s a real need out there for species right across the whole spectrum right now.

“We just wanted to draw attention to some of our rarest species here and enable people to select one of these endangered species and gift or adopt one as their own.

“Our aim is to raise funds for these projects and draw attention to what needs to be done.

The chatham shag – the perfect gift

Jessup described shags as “rarer than you might think”, and thought one would make a great gift for the laugh value alone.

“We decided if you would like a shag, or you would like to gift a shag to someone you think would like one, we have put that on our website.”

She admitted the bird was not really as ugly and creepy as some of their other picks.

The weta fungus and hamilton's frog are two of the Endangered Species Foundation's picks for Christmas 'gifts' this year, in the form of sponsorship

The weta fungus and hamilton’s frog are two of the Endangered Species Foundation’s picks for Christmas ‘gifts’ this year, in the form of sponsorship
Photo: Supplied/ Endangered Species Foundation

The giant weta fungus

This species, Jessup agreed, does look somewhat like a terrible life-threatening disease.

“It does actually take over the [bodies of New Zealand’s] giant weta … but then we’re here not just to advocate for the creatures we can identify with, but even down to the microorganisms and fungi – everything plays a really important part of the ecosystem.

“So even giant weta fungus has a part to play.”

The fuzzweed moth and galaxia fish are two of the Endangered Species Foundation's picks for Christmas 'gifts' this year, in the form of sponsorship

The fuzzweed moth and galaxia fish are on this year’s list
Photo: Supplied/ Endangered Species Foundation

Fuzzweed moth

Another one where the “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, Jessup said, was the fuzzweed moth.

“It’s really kind of cute, it was discovered in 1989, and it’s our only moth in New Zealand that’s active in the day.

“It’s got a really fast and erratic flying style, it’s only found at six sites in Central Otago and only feeds on the fuzzweed daisy.”

Adoption certificates would be sent out to those who adopt through the Foundation’s website, and donors would also be sent more information about the species and how they could be supported.

“In every case we have identified what needs to be done to protect the species, and in some cases this work is costed,” the website said.

The team aim to raise $30,000 to help their menagerie out.

Story Credit: rnz.co.nz

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