I’m all for elephants and tigers, but is that because of their inherent appeal or the many numerous admiring portrayals elephants and tigers have enjoyed over the years, such as Snuffelopagus or Tony the Tiger? I’m not suggesting elephants and tigers aren’t what they appear to be, but there’s no question that elephants and tigers are held in substantially higher esteem than sharks and corals. Is this because sharks and corals are bloodthirsty threats lurking just below the water’s surface, ready to either rip our body in two or annoyingly scratch it, depending on which one you happen to encounter? Or is it because sharks and corals are simply portrayed that way by an unrelenting media that can’t get enough of Shark and Coral Week?
Corals, I give you, don’t titillate the imagination. They are extremely important for a variety of reasons, but at the end of the day who is going to vote against an elephant or a tiger in favor of a coral? Name one coral, ever. I have a marine biologist friend who can probably name some corals, but I bet even she would have a hard time not picking an elephant or tiger over a coral.
Why? Corals have absolutely no PR machine. They have zero Animal Q rating. Elephants and Tigers, way up there. Not corals. Finding Nemo was their last, best chance for a breakout performance, but aquarium toys stole the spotlight and never looked back. Now look at corals. Leeched and broken, turned down for protection even by a progressive regulatory regime, and getting rolled yet again by elephants and tigers. I guess it just sucks to be a coral.
But sharks? Sharks have such a frustrating, dichotomous relationship with people. On the one hand, we love them for their power, their sheer immense size, their two penises, and their boffo box office debut. But there are downsides, most prominent among them being that they sometimes eat people. The corals may complain about getting no PR, but it’s better than bad PR, and nothing brings bad relations with the public than sometimes eating the public.
Do elephants and tigers sometimes maul or eat people? Yes, of course, all the time. I’ve read Kipling, and I know. But elephants and tigers are also seen doing good acts like moving logs or bringing joy to the city of Detroit every 25 years. When’s the last time you heard anybody say anything good about a shark? It’s too bad, really, because sharks only want us to be their chum.