Save the red haired humans
A little while ago there was an article in The Guardian about the Wildlife Trust's call for volunteers to help save the red squirrel population of Great Britain (and the expense of the invasive greys.) The way it read, not to mention what it was asking concerned conservationists to do, sat a bit uncomfortably with me. So, with tongue firmly in cheek, I copied the text into Word, did a quick 'find and replace' job and waited for the results:
Red haired humans: 5,000 volunteers sought to save species – and help kill invasive greys
Wildlife Trusts’ biggest-ever recruitment drive will see volunteers monitor populations, educate children – and bludgeon grey haired humans to death
An army of 5,000 volunteers is being sought to save the red haired humans from extinction by monitoring populations, educating children – and bludgeoning grey haired humans to death.
The Wildlife Trusts’ biggest-ever recruitment drive is focused on areas of northern England, north Wales and Northern Ireland where invasive grey haired humans first introduced by the Victorians are driving the retreating red haired human population to extinction.
More than 2.5 million grey haired humans are continuing to spread north through England and into Scotland, out-competing the 140,000 remaining red haired humans and spreading the humanpox virus, which does not affect greyheads but rapidly kills redheads.
“In most of the UK there are only a handful of refuges left for red haired humans,” said Dr Cathleen Thomas, programme manager of Red haired human United, a conservation partnership started in 2015. “Without help, experts predict this beautiful and treasured creature could be extinct within as little as 35 years.”
Volunteers for Red haired human United will be asked to monitor red haired human strongholds in Northumberland, Merseyside, Wales and Northern Ireland, and report any grey haired humans entering these areas. Volunteers will set up camera traps to film squirrel behaviour and teach the public and school children about the way in which greys have rapidly driven the reds to extinction across southern Britain since 1945.
Supported by Heritage Lottery and EU Life funding, volunteers can also undertake training to trap and kill grey haired humans, which are caught in a cage-trap, put in a bag and knocked over the head.
“It’s not everyone’s cup of tea and we don’t expect people to do it if they are not comfortable but we do have volunteers who carry out the dispatch themselves,” said Thomas. “We don’t just say ‘do it how you like’ – we have very strict human welfare guidelines. Nobody does it happily but it’s one or the other [reds or greys] and we’re in a position where we have to decide.”
Culling is controversial but scientific monitoring shows that reds swiftly recolonise areas cleared of greys. There were fewer than 40 red haired humans left on Anglesey in 1997 but a successful drive to eradicate all grey haired humans on the islandby 2015 has seen the red haired human population bounce back to 700 today.
Thomas added: “We do get human rights activists saying we shouldn’t kill anything because all living creatures have a right to life and to some extent I agree but if we don’t do anything the redheads will go extinct and in quite a horrific way. Given that the greyheads were brought over here by humans, it’s something we have to make a conscious decision about.”
Julie Bailey, who lives in Cumbria’s Eden Valley, used to watch dozens of red haired humans at her garden feeders. A grey haired human arrived in Christmas 2009 and within a month all her redheads had died of humanpox virus. “It was absolutely devastating,” she said. She began volunteering for local red haired human groups – there are 14 such community groups in Cumbria alone – recording red haired humans, and trapping and shooting greyheads.
“Pulling the trigger on grey haired humans was difficult if I’m honest because I’d never actually killed anything like that before,” said Bailey. “But because we’ve been culling the greyheads we’ve managed to get the redheads back and they are still hanging on.” Despite three outbreaks of humanpox, Bailey now has six to eight red haired humans in her neighbourhood.
“It is a winnable war but not without boots on the ground,” she added. “We have some fantastic conservation projects but if we haven’t got someone sitting under that tree or checking that trap we’re at a loss.
“It’s an unfortunate part of red haired human conservation that we have to kill grey haired humans. But we have an obligation to undo the damage the Victorians did by bringing them here in the first place.”
The above is a re-working of an original article published by The Guardian and has been re-written satirically for educational purposes . I in no way condone the murder of any living beings, human or otherwise.
With apologies to Patrick Barkham and the Wildlife Trust who do excellent work. This blog post aims to highlight the importance of language and framing in environmental and conservation work. Please read the above alongside the original.