The axolotl salamander is a Critically Endangered amphibian from Mexico © ZSL
A Zoological Society of London (ZSL) survey found that Britons have a greater awareness of fantasy creatures from literature and film than the world’s most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species.
The 1,000 people in the survey were asked to identify animals they recognised from a list, including unicorns, the gruffalo and the jabberwocky.
“This survey, although light-hearted, perfectly highlights the importance of the work of the EDGE of Existence programme,” says ZSL’s Dr Nisha Owen.
“We’re working tirelessly to save remarkable creatures which, in many cases, the public might not have even heard of.”
The results revealed that although 88 per cent of participants had heard of unicorns, 78 per cent of the gruffalo, and 62 per cent of the sasquatch (or Bigfoot), the awareness levels were much lower for real-life animals.
Only 20 per cent had heard of the axolotl salamander, a Critically Endangered amphibian which is found in only one Mexican lake, and just one per cent were aware of the hirola, an antelope found in north-east Kenya and south-west Somalia that is also Critically Endangered.
Female hirola and calf © ZSL
The survey marks the 10-year anniversary of the EDGE of Existence programme, which aims to identify and conserve the world’s EDGE species (Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered).
Full list of mythical and real-life animals in the survey
(Creature – per cent of survey participants that had heard of the creature)
Mermaid – 89.50
Unicorn – 88.70
Yeti – 81.80
Gruffalo – 78.00
Ewok – 68.90
Jabberwocky – 65.30
Sasquatch (aka Bigfoot) – 62.30
Wookie – 57.60
Hippogriff – 28.20
Echidna – 22.50
Direwolf – 21.30
Axolotl – 19.50
Dugong – 19.00
Shoebill stork – 11.50
Numbat – 7.70
Gharial – 4.90
Indri – 4.10
Olm – 3.30
Caecilian – 2.60
Solenodon – 2.50
Siderastrea – 1.10
Hirola – 1.10
None of the above – 4.00
Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine