With the football season now well underway here in the UK, it’s not just the new strips and multi-million pound summer signings getting the fans pumped up on match day, it’s the wealth of wildlife hanging out on the side lines. This may sound bizarre, but I am, of course, talking about club mascots.
Manchester United fans will be familiar with ‘Fred the Red’, while Yeovil Town fans will have seen ‘Jolly Green Giant’ prancing around the pitch at Huish Park, but many club mascots take inspiration from animals, some of which are threatened with extinction in the wild.
For instance, the Everton mascot, ‘Chang the Elephant’, is cheered on by thousands of Everton fans at Goodison Park each week, but in the wild the Asian elephant population is being decimated by hunting and habitat loss.
So to highlight the plight of the mascots’ wild cousins, I have profiled some of ARKive’s threatened species for you to keep an eye out for on a Saturday afternoon.
Relegation might be the greatest threat to ‘Lofty the Lion’ at Bolton Wanderers, but in the wild the African lion is declining at an alarming rate due to conflict with humans and habitat loss.
With newly promoted Newcastle United flying high in the premier league, the future looks bright for ‘Monty Magpie’. The fate of the Seychelles magpie robin has also been revitalised as it has increased from just 15 birds in 1965 to 180 in 2006 thanks to dedicated conservation efforts.
‘Broxi Bear’ cuts an iconic figure at Glasgow Rangers, but in the wild, the equally charismatic sun bear is threatened by hunting for its body parts for use in traditional medicines, as well as by habitat loss.
While Portsmouth and ‘Frogmore the Frog’ narrowly avoided extinction, a situation all too familiar for the Kihansi spray toad, the alluring golden toad was not so fortunate as it succumbed to the deadly chytrid fungus at the end of the 1980s and is now considered to be extinct.
With Brighton and Hove Albion sitting convincingly at the top of the League One table, ‘Gully the Sea Gull’ seems to have few worries at present. Its wild cousin, the relict gull, however, could soon become a thing of the past as drought, overgrazing by livestock, habitat loss and disturbance all threaten its survival.
Why not explore ARKive for your own football mascots and share your suggestions?
Alex Royan, ARKive Species Text Author