By Beth Daley, Globe Staff
I've always been stunned by the outpouring of emails, phone calls and letters I get when I write about stranded dolphins, entangled whales and other cute and charismatic creatures.
bats with white nose in a Chester, Massachusetts mine (US Fish and Wildlife)
But while I have regularly written about a mysterious Northeast bat illness that has killed hundreds of thousands of the animals in recent years, I have only heard from a few handful of readers. Bats, it seems, just don't cut it on the cute meter. Scientists trying to save them agree and today I wrote a story about how researchers believe bats nasty repuation may be hurting their efforts to get more public support - and federal dollars - to fight the dreaded illness.
But one thing I wasn't able to get in was an additional observation by by David Stokes at the University of Washington. Stokes worries bats are a symbol of a growing problem where humans choose which species to save based on their cuteness or charisma - not ecological value. By doing, so, we may be risking species we don't even know are valuable.
So would you rally around rats? Save the slugs? How important is it to you to save species that many not tug at the heartstrings?