What Pepe the Frog Taught Us About Biodiversity

Illustration by Elizabeth Stilwell. 

Illustration by Elizabeth Stilwell

Pepe the Frog, a character created by Matt Furie, is dead. After Pepe's ugly, unsanctioned transformation culminated in him being identified as an anti-Semitic hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League, Furie attempted a campaign to #SavePepe — even joining forces with the ADL — but ultimately failed. This month, on Free Comic Books Day, Pepe was rebelliously laid to rest by his maker. Pepe’s odious fate reminds us of the adversity many animals are facing thanks to our own destructive effects on the environment. In fact, amphibians have a higher rate of endangerment than any other animal, and because of their sensitivity to environmental changes, “vanishing amphibians should be viewed as the canary in the global coal mine, signaling subtle yet radical ecosystem changes that could ultimately claim many other species, including humans,” according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Most scientists agree that we are experiencing a sixth mass extinction, but unlike the previous five that extended over hundreds of millions of years and occurred because of cataclysmic natural disasters, humans are responsible for this one.” This Mother Jones article goes on to read like the “In Memoriam” portion of the Oscars. Tonight, we reflect on the incredible animals we have lost this year: The Bramble Car melomys, the Irrawaddy dolphin, “Toughie” the Rabbs' fringe-limbed tree frog. *Cue the slideshow and Sarah McLachlan music.*

Pepe and Toughie have met their untimely ends, but there’s still time to save animal populations threatened by climate change, pollution, poaching, and disease. Today, May 22nd, is the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) aka World Biodiversity Day, proclaimed by the United Nations in 1993 to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. To honor this day, we urge you to get informed about biodiversity and the challenges facing endangered species. Watch the video below and consider donating to some of the organizations on the front lines of animal extinction.

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