Conservation scientists across the country have been put on red alert in response to a Wikipedia entry that claims the ginger gene is in serious decline across the UK. The website’s assertions that gingers have been included on the most recent IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has led to a number of zoos setting up captive breeding programmes to reverse the decline. London Zoo will spearhead efforts after playing a key role in the successful breeding programmes and subsequent reintroduction of orangutans, red pandas and Eskimos.
The Director of London Zoo, Professor Tim Blackburn, has made available a team of researchers and is keen to lead the breeding programme. He said, ‘After being sent a link to the Wikipedia page I have to say I was shocked. I knew numbers were down, but to find out they could disappear from these islands completely left me with no alternative but to act now.’
In order to establish breeding populations, the teams will be heading to those parts of Britain where gingers can still be found living in the wild. One isolated group based in the Highlands of Scotland are thought to represent the purest line, so these individuals will be targeted first to ensure the ancestral gene is protected from further dilution.
‘Catching the specimens is just the first problem,’ continued Professor Blackburn, ‘Gingers kept in captivity are renowned for their reluctance to breed. So we’ll be adapting a few tricks that have been used to good effect with pandas where researchers found that playing the pairings videos of other pandas mating stimulated activity. We’re trying our best to source some good quality ginger porn which is so far proving to be much more difficult than we’d anticipated, but a couple of our research assistants are pulling 12 hour shifts tirelessly trawling the internet.’
In any breeding programme it is critical to ensure the stress levels of the animals remains at a minimum. Therefore the zookeepers who interact with the exhibits will wear ginger wigs whenever they enter the enclosures. In addition Professor Blackburn advised that, ‘zoos will also provide parasols and gazebos under which the gingers can escape the harmful glare of the sun. Otherwise the costs involved in supplying sun cream would have made the conservation effort completely unworkable.’
As his team attempts to unpick the root cause behind the demise of the ginger gene, Professor Blackburn conceded, ‘It is obviously not going to come down to one single factor, but early indications point strongly towards global warming, habitat degradation and Mick Hucknall.’
26th March, 2011