Throughout my sporting life I have been inspired by animal totems. I have snarled like the tiger for the local league team formerly known as Wests, bashed a ball for the Bears baseball club and gnawed a path to victory with the Beaver-Eaters in the back waters of Lismores twilight cricket.
Most sportspeople have played for a team which carries an animals name and draws on the characteristic of the beast in question. This reverence and love of all things animal isnt restricted to sporting groups. Many business groups also use natures creatures to lift their profile and their sales. Who of us cannot claim to have flown down the road in a Falcon or envied the Jaguar that raced past?
However, the sad reality is that there are many more teams who bear the logo of the Tigers than there are tigers left in the world. There are many, many more clubs whose uniforms proudly sport the snarling image of the mighty bear than there are bears that still walk upon the earth. As far as science can tell us, we are in the grips of the sixth great extinction of life on earth the first since the extinction of the dinosaurs some 60,000 years ago. Furthermore, we are responsible for that extinction. So next time you pull on an Australian rugby jersey with a wallaby emblazoned on it, it might be worth remembering that the following wallabies are already extinct; the crescent nail-tail wallaby, the central hare wallaby, the rufous hare wallaby, the eastern hare wallaby, the banded hare wallaby, the Tammar wallaby and the Toolache wallaby.
Its a gutting reality and although we cant help these animals now, we can do something about the species that remain. We can pay our wild friends back for their inspiration. We can compensate the animal kingdom for the animal images we use. International activist Gregory Colbert has already initiated a project, entitled the Animal Copyright Foundation. In a speech to the Technology, Entertainment Design conference last year in Monterey, California, Colbert predicted that if the idea was accepted globally, Animal Copyright would be the largest wildlife fund in the world in three years. Of course there are legal complexities but the idea itself is brilliant and revolutionary. So whether the Animal Copyright Foundation takes off or not, the concept of companies and sporting franchises giving back to the creatures that inspire them should be embraced, even if only for the positive publicity it would generate.
Imagine if the Telstra Wallabies donated just one per cent of their annual earnings to the Australian Conservation Foundation? What if the Sea Eagles donated to the World Wildlife Fund? How much more power and might would they be able to draw from their mascots if they actually cared about their continued existence?
Sportspeople are passionate creatures. If they believe they are changing the world for the better they will think better of themselves and will play better. Sports followers want to do the right thing as well and they will follow teams that promote conservation, particularly of their teams mascot. Its a win-win-win scenario.
Of course there would be some tricky participants in the scheme. The Queensland Cane Toads State of Origin team would need to help eradicate their totem animal at least on mainland Australia. The Cats, well, they could be part of a de-sexing drive. Come to think of it, that might be a good project for the Bulldogs as well. But thats another story...
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