In our series about people with a passion for a species, we ask fashion model Arizona Muse why she cares so much about the leopard slug.
Model Arizona Muse tells us about her affinity for leopard slugs
Why are you championing the leopard slug?
Leopard slugs are gardeners’ friends. They don’t damage healthy, living plants, but there are reports that they do eat other slugs, including species that consume garden plants and vegetables. These terrestrial molluscs are slimy and rather expressionless, so people tend to ignore them, but they are incredible indicators of a balanced and healthy ecosystem, and play a vital role as recyclers. Growing up to 20cm long with dark spots or blotches, they inhabit damp places across the UK and can be found in woodlands, hedgerows, parks and gardens that have dead wood lying on the ground.
What are your favourite facts about slugs?
They are thought to have evolved from snails and some still have a piece of shell in their bodies. As far as I’m aware, it has no purpose and is a remnant of what used to be the snail’s shell. When I found out, I thought it was very funny – it’s like they’re still moving out. Slugs are also hermaphrodites, meaning that each one has both male and female sexual organs. The bizarre mating ritual of leopard slugs featured in BBC Two’s Nature’s Weirdest Events. The two slugs hung upside down on a thick strand of mucus, intertwined and exchanged sperm to fertilise their eggs.
When did you start becoming interested in nature?
I’ve learnt a lot about wildlife and biodiversity from Jessica Sweidan, founding trustee of conservation organisation Synchronicity Earth. She taught me about the underdogs of the natural world. Right now, our environment is not balanced and we need to pay more attention – starting with the smaller, less-pretty creatures. Conservation efforts often focus on big, charismatic megafauna – these animals do need our protection, but we also need to think about the lower end of the food- chain.
As a model, how do you encourage change?
I still work with unsustainable brands, as I see it as an opportunity to talk to them about their processes and materials. When I’m on a fashion shoot, I chat about sustainability and try to make a difference to the industry from the inside. My work also gives me a platform from which to talk to a wider audience – because I am familiar to people, they are interested in what I say. However, brands also need to hear from consumers to be encouraged to make a change.
How do you shop sustainably?
I always check the label of something before I purchase it to see if it is made of synthetic materials. If it is, I don’t buy it. Organic cotton is the only kind of cotton we should be using. Synthetics take a very long time to degrade and other cotton farming relies heavily on fertilisers and pesticides that can reach our lakes and rivers, harming algae, reducing the amount of oxygen in our waterways and affecting our plant life. Decades of fertiliser runoff from corn and soya bean fields in the Midwest, USA, has created a massive dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. It is an example of why we need to shift global farming practices. Jo Price
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