ILLUSTRATIONS BY ANDREW RAE
What the hell is going on? Not content with destroying half the world via floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, Katy Perry, snowstorms, riots, and halfwits who won’t stop talking about 2012, God is making all the animals go totally crazy. The recent spate of animal freakishness prompted us to talk to some experts about the dilemma and relay a small selection of the most terrifying fauna nightmares we are currently facing and how they might worsen in the very near future.
Vice: Hello. You are a program officer for climate change at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, right?
Wendy Foden: That is correct.
We’ve been receiving reports that climate change is affecting the way animals behave.
Signs of animals’ responses to changing climates are becoming increasingly common, including changes in distribution ranges, behaviors, and timing.
Recent studies tell us that species extinction rates are already 100 to 1,000 times greater than what we thought, and this is mostly due to the human-driven loss of their habitats, overuse, and being outcompeted by invasive species. Climate change is worsening these problems and is predicted to overtake them. While some of these changes in animals’ behavior have been anticipated, others are coming as surprises to us. Some animals are winners, others losers.
What is going to happen? Are animals trying to hasten the end of the world?
It’s difficult to know what to expect from animals trying to cope with changing climates—we need to expect the unexpected!
Well said! Thank you very much, Wendy. We will now present our readers with a list of some of the aberrant creature behavior that prompted us to contact you in the first place.
ARMIES OF KILLER JELLYFISH
Jellyfish are pretty creepy under any circumstances. But when they swarm in the tens of thousands, the primordial blobs quickly veer from icky to downright mortifying. Due to a combination of overfishing and global warming, jellyfish are feeding increasingly closer to land, which means that species like the box jellyfish are stinging more and more people with their toxin-laden tentacles. A brush against one of their gross appendages can kill a human within 180 seconds of insane agony. Japan’s fishing industry is also currently facing a crisis by way of a beast called Nomura’s jellyfish. These foul-looking creatures can grow to six and a half feet wide and devastate fish stocks, burst nets, and capsize trawlers with their massive bulk. There have been halfhearted attempts to promote jellyfish as a scrumptious alternative to sushi and salmon, but their gelatinous consistency is too gross for even the Asian palate.
KILLER SHARKS ALMOST INVADING LAND
Guess what happens when humans feed sharks? They expect to be fed regularly, and when they aren’t their tum-tums start growling and they get grumpy. So you can imagine what happens when fat, filthy, and inexperienced tourist divers at exotic resorts like Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheik wander off into the shallow reefs to pose for photos while feeding the sharks: They are treated to a round of instant gastric-bypass surgery courtesy of a prehistoric fish with two dicks. Between the feeding, the overfishing of their natural prey, and the warming of previously unwelcoming waters due to climate change, it’s hardly surprising that sharks have started taking chunks out of tourists more frequently. Last year saw an unprecedented number of shark attacks in the Red Sea, cuing some conspiracy theorists to claim that it was Israel’s fault. Sadly, that won’t stop governments like Egypt from allowing, and even encouraging, such activities. Beach vacationers, after all, account for 66 percent of the country’s total tourism income. Has nobody seen Jaws 5: Out of Aswan?
Mosquitoes are the PMS of the animal kingdom. They are responsible for fluid retention (big, itchy red bumps), producing annoying noises inches away from everyone’s ears, and making boyfriends and husbands everywhere get out of bed to turn on the light for irritating reasons. But imagine the horror that would ensue if the sort of mosquito problems that affect poor places without indoor plumbing suddenly started to threaten Western Europe and North America. Ha, too late. Species like the Asian tiger mosquito have moved to Europe and America, and these hungry little airborne vessels are bringing all sorts of lovely viruses along with them. Fancy some Chikungunya fever? Just have a BBQ in southeast England or various parts of the US this summer and you might hit the infectious-disease jackpot.
Your bees aren’t making enough honey? Import a different species that will. South America did just that when it acquired loads of African bees to boost production. The only downside was that African bees are the Mike Tysons of the insect world: Once disturbed or pissed off they will remain in an “ultra-aggressive” state for 24 hours and chase intruders ten times farther than other varieties. The most amusing news is that over the past decade they have been migrating north into the US, all the way up to places like Utah and Louisiana, where they are happily terrifying nonchalant dog walkers and hikers. It’s likely that these unfriendly bees will cripple the US honey industry, which is currently worth $140 million, by taking a pollen-coated shit in the bee gene pool.
KILLER SNAKES KILLING FAMILIES
Recent housing developments in Hoedspruit, South Africa, have resulted in a surge in reports of black mamba attacks. As the snakes relocate, they are savaging new residents and poorly paid workers on the way out. A black-mamba bite contains 400 mg of two different toxins—enough to kill ten large men. There have been rumors of snakes creeping into tents and wiping out whole families, but none of this seems to bother the land developers who continue to build on the serpents’ natural habitat. Also, as Australians struggle with the recent catastrophic floods, they have keenly honed their snake-bashing skills as the rising waters force a natural selection between the two species. What the Aussies need is a Simpsons-like national snake-bashing day to memorialize the victims.