An insect that looks like “an alien from a film” has been named Animal of the Year for 2014 by the nature protection organisation Pro Natura: it is the European field cricket (Gryllus campestris).
Pro Natura also describes its choice more flatteringly as the “first violin in the meadow orchestra”: it says most people will only know it by the loud chirp of the males in summer meadows, which can be up to 100 decibels and can be heard as far as 100 metres away.
The organisation explains that it chose the cricket as a plea for more biodiversity in fields and meadows. The insect likes sunny hillsides and natural meadows, habitat which is disappearing under housing development and modern intensive farming. At higher altitudes, slopes which are no longer being farmed are being overgrown with bushes, making them no longer attractive to the cricket.
The European field cricket is one of nine species of cricket in Switzerland and is not endangered. However, although it has wings, it cannot fly, so is more or less confined to its own area. As a result, many cricket populations live in “islands”, which makes them more vulnerable and more likely to die out locally, Pro Natura says.
Pro Natura has chosen an Animal of the Year since 1998. Last year it was the midwife toad.
Last week the Swiss Anglers Federation named the European bullhead as the fish of the year. The Swiss Association for the Protection of Birds usually names its bird of the year around the end of January.
At the end of December, the international nature protection organisation, WWF, issued its list of the animal kingdom’s winners and losers of 2013. It praised efforts being made to enable salmon to return to the Rhine in Switzerland, and welcomed the resettlement of the bearded vulture: a record six pairs successfully brought up one chick each in Switzerland last year.
swissinfo.ch and agencies