There is this thing called charismatic megafauna: using large, well-known and popular animal species as ambassadors to further more general conservation goals. Saving the panda, for example, is easier to sell than preserving biodiversity in its range. One does not expect reptiles and amphibians to make it to the privileged ranks of charismatic megafauna, especially not an ugly giant aquatic salamander with a nasty bite. But the North Carolina Zoo has has gone and done that very thing with the hellbender — also known as the “snot otter” — to promote clean rivers in that state. The Wall Street Journal — of all places — has the story. As you can imagine, marketing something called a snot otter is, well, a challenge, but the zoo is up for it. From the WSJ article:
Despite various PR hurdles — hellbenders are cannibals, for example — the zoo’s nonprofit arm is gamely trying to popularize the creature. In the works is an ambitious marketing campaign that could ultimately involve not just T-shirts and educational posters, but also sock puppets and Christmas ornaments.
Already up and wriggling is the mascot, Snotty, a big-tailed lizard look-alike with brown skin, beady eyes and stubby teeth.
He made his debut —with mixed results — at the New River Celebration in Laurel Springs, N.C., this past summer.