We see it all the time — a commercial begins with dreary music and the images of sad-faced animals. Perhaps Noah Wyle begins to lecture us about the melting ice caps or Sarah McLachlan sings “Angel” over snapshots of shelters holding abused cats and dogs. People like me are immediately swept up by the indignity and remember to go make a donation to the SPCA and the WWF. Others might have been affected on the first viewing, or maybe never at all; however, commercials like these get lost in the mix of a hundred other advertisements. Fortunately, heart-wrenching commercials aren’t the only hope for animals at risk. Animals in captivity, like newborn Danish polar bear, Siku, have a bigger impact than company commercials. Appearing in innumerable multimedia sources, they are ideal for spreading awareness for endangered species.
Cuteness can act as the greatest instigator of public response. Siku is not the first example. Other animal ambassadors have graced our screens to promote peace and awareness. Ling-Ling the panda from Japan and Knut the polar bear from Germany both advocated for different causes. Ling-Ling, loaned from China to Japan in 1992 acted as a symbol of peace between the two countries and greatly improved the ties between the countries. Ling-Ling, Tokyo’s oldest living Giant Panda, died in 2008, capturing the attention of not only Japan’s residents, but also citizens of countries across the world.
Knut, the Berlin Zoo’s hand-raised polar bear, inspired his own movement to protect polar bears that continued past his unexpected death in March 2011. One of the most important parts of Knut’s fame is the notoriety he was able acquire. Today, anyone can get a hold of endless newspaper articles, highlights on news stations, YouTube dedications, websites, and now, a book dedicated to “how one little polar bear captivated the world,” all devoted to Knut. Each tells the story of the renowned polar bear and his legacy. The multimedia pours out from innumerable sources, making it easy to obtain and impossible to ignore.
Siku and his caretakers have a slightly different objective. He will be an ambassador for environmental protection. Born in Denmark last month to a mother that did not produce any milk, Siku began a life surrounded by humans. The baby bear became a viral sensation with his adorable YouTube videos and now has a Facebook page with over 31,000 members. News stations around the country have taken notice of his popularity and the bear received an exclusive segment on NBC’s Today Show on December 27. Siku’s primary caretaker, Frank, was certain to mention throughout the interview that Siku will serve as an “ambassador” for his fellow polar bears that live in the wild. He also mentioned that Siku’s name translates to “sea ice,” an important symbol of the melting sea ice in the arctic. At the end of the segment, Frank asks to make a “New Year’s wish on behalf of Siku:” please reduce your carbon footprint and use less energy this New Year.
Animal ambassadors like Siku are very important to the survival of endangered species like polar bears. Their impact reaches far beyond their zoo enclosures and has even managed to help maintain peace between countries and spread awareness. Worldwide sensations that not only appear on commercials, but also bombard the population on the internet, in newspapers, on the radio, and on news stations give great hope to environmental movements. Giving people a tangible example of a species in danger will promote a greater response. Siku is more than a picture on a screen; he is polar bears’ greatest hope.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons