Do cute animals get better protection?
August 15th, 2011
10:52 PM ET

Do cute animals get better protection?

Worms have been denied, wolves could be cut out, but some sea turtles could be added to the U.S. Endangered Species List.

A push to add the loggerhead sea turtle is bolstered by several studies that say they could be extinct in the middle of the century. Besides natural predators, boat strikes, fishing and dredging, baby loggerheads have to contend with humans who see them and illegally take them home, thinking they can take care of them. The Tybee Island Marine Science Center in Georgia says it hears about this happening often.

“(People take them) because they’re so cute," said Lauren Broome, a marine biologist at the center. "When they’re hatched, they’re about … 2 inches."

But do cuter animals like the loggerhead have an easier time getting on the endangered list than creepier or more menacing creatures?

Patrick Gallagher, director of the Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program, says cute or charismatic animals can have an easier time, politically, getting protections from federal officials.

“Decision makers feel more protected when they have a charismatic animal at issue as opposed to something more obscure,” Gallagher said. “But the fact is science should drive all the decisions.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is one of the federal administrators of the Endangered Species Program. The FWS is charged with ensuring proper development in areas where endangered animals live, as well as habitat restoration. FWS has consistently stated the list is maintained in accordance with scientific findings.

The program has had great success in the past with certain animals, including bald eagles, which were taken off the list in 2007 after eagle populations increased. Yet some environmentalists say other animals, like wolves in the Colorado region, are removed because of political pressures from developers, farmers and other interest groups.

“The pressure to remove something from the list comes from a variety of sources, including political pressure brought by the opponents,” Gallagher said.

Many environmentalists say they're concerned that key animals and plants are not protected simply because they aren’t popular. Other environmentalists say that the U.S. government should move quickly to come to a determination for some 750 species - many of them, like the wolverine, not exactly known for being cute and cuddly.

Click the audio player to hear the rest of the story from CNN Radio's John Sepulvado:

You can also listen to the CNN Radio Reports podcast on itunes or subscribe to the podcast here.

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Filed under: Animals • Nature • Politics • Turtles
soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. Joey

    Good night raven.

    August 16, 2011 at 3:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. Pink Panther

    Good night Joey.

    August 16, 2011 at 3:17 am | Report abuse |
  3. Mmmmm

    Good night fernace

    August 16, 2011 at 3:18 am | Report abuse |
  4. banasy

    Ah hello. Where did everybody go?

    August 16, 2011 at 3:21 am | Report abuse |
  5. Humber

    @ fernace:
    I like wolves too.
    They started coming back into the woods near us. Their sound is exciting.

    August 16, 2011 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
  6. Humber

    I don't think that's really banasy at this hour. Sleepless?

    August 16, 2011 at 3:33 am | Report abuse |
  7. Humber

    Oh.
    I know who it was.

    August 16, 2011 at 3:43 am | Report abuse |
  8. real fernace

    Trolls should Not be on anybodys endangered lists, they should just be allowed to become Extinct!! 😦

    August 16, 2011 at 4:59 am | Report abuse |
  9. cute elephants

    And donkeys.

    August 16, 2011 at 5:04 am | Report abuse |
  10. cute elephant

    With donkey head too.

    August 16, 2011 at 5:08 am | Report abuse |
  11. Annie

    Studies have shown that the better looking student gets better teacher treatment. The better looking employee gets the promotion. Why should this be any different.

    August 16, 2011 at 7:19 am | Report abuse |
    • M

      Because when ugly things go extinct, the cute ones will too. Think about it, if rats (for example) go extinct what do you think is going to happen when our cute and cuddly cats have no food? Just like how imperfections in humans have use (sickle cell anemia gene traits can help deter malaria) gross and threatening animals have purpose too.

      August 16, 2011 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
    • dhondi

      Well thought out Annie.

      August 16, 2011 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
  12. Bernie

    good thing for bush and our military that the people in the middleeast look discheveled and unhuman to the average american

    August 16, 2011 at 7:59 am | Report abuse |
  13. KLee

    This is no joke. Wolves are being hunted to extinction because money talks. Cute animals make it high on the endangered list unless they endanger some rich guys hunting space, cattle herd etc., etc., Then they don't count. There are so many endangered species that no one cares about. Don't you relies that all our native animals are here for a reason. Take them away something more sinister takes over. And we keep importing alien species to take care of our problems and then of course they become problems with no natural enemies so we import more aliens to take care of them. When does it stop?? We use deadly chemicals so our kids and pets become sick. Does this ever end?

    August 16, 2011 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Fat Bobby Joe

      These same people have no problem ruining the environment as long as you don't leave their kids a bill.

      August 16, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  14. Pedro

    I like chihuahuas. And llamas. Chihuahuas es muy bueno. y tacos.

    August 16, 2011 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
  15. dhondi

    As Dennis Leary put it: "Don't eat the tuna, the dolphins are being caught in the nets" What about the tune "Eff them, they taste good"

    August 16, 2011 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Fat Bobby Joe

      I like my long pig well done. You are coming to dinner, yes?

      August 16, 2011 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
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