Wildlife cham­pion

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.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Contents - ARI­ZONA MUSE is an am­bas­sador for Syn­chronic­ity Earth, which will be cel­e­brat­ing its 10th an­niver­sary this Novem­ber, with other events through­out 2019: syn­chronic­i­tyearth.org

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

S They don’t dam­age healthy, liv­ing plants, but they do eat other slugs. T

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