2349: Rabbit Introduction
Title text: Washington state is seeing great success with reintroducing the Columbia River Basin subpopulation. We cannot allow them to further widen the interstate bun gap.
Cueball is giving a presentation on the pygmy rabbit to a group of panelists, requesting a grant to introduce the species to the eastern United States. The head of the panel, Blondie, asks about typical reasons for introducing a species. If they were native to an area, but had been locally depopulated, re-introduction can help to restore the local ecosystem, but Cueball admits this is not the case. Another reason animal populations may be introduced is to control a local pest. Cueball seems to have no idea what the impact on the local ecosystem would be. In fact, he makes quite clear that his reasoning is simply that the creatures are tiny and cute, and he wants to spread them. He also appears to be entirely perplexed that the panel doesn't feel the same way.
Blondie, very reasonably, immediately moves to deny the request. Not only would such a grant expend funds for no legitimate scientific or ecological purpose, but it would risk serious and unstudied impacts on the local ecosystem (especially considering that this very thing has happened with rabbits before). However, at this point, the other three panelists - White Hat, Megan and Hairy - have been swayed by Cueball's unconventional argument. All three of them are visibly entranced by the cuteness of the rabbits, and appear willing to fund the request purely based on affection for the animals. This is sort of the opposite of the "charismatic megafauna" method of conservation - charismatic minifauna: the more mini, the more charismatic.
The title text mentions the effort to reintroduce the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit into their native area of the Columbia River drainage basin. It refers to an "Interstate Bun Gap", suggesting a competition between states over which has the most and/or cutest rabbits. That phrase is a reductio ad absurdum of other gaps in capabilities between states and nations, such as the bomber gap and missile gap (widely-publicized shortages - later revealed to be fictional - of the respective nuclear arsenals of the United States compared to the Soviet Union), perhaps similar to the satirical "mine shaft gap" from the 1964 film Dr. Strangelove.
This comic continues an xkcd tradition of dealing with the subjective cuteness of rabbits as a scientific discipline (1682: Bun). Randall seems fascinated with the cuteness of lagomorphs, as it is a recurring subject.
- [Cueball is standing in front of a screen and pointing at it with a stick. On the screen is a rabbit shown next to a smartphone, some keys on a key-chain, and two coins. The phone is larger than the rabbit.]
- Cueball: The US's smallest rabbit species is the pygmy rabbit from the Great Basin area.
- Cueball: We're seeking a grant to introduce them into the east.
- [Blondie, White Hat, Megan and Hairy sit behind a long table. Blondie leans both her arms on the table. Hairy has one arm on the table. The other two have their arms down. Cueball replies to Blondie's question from off-panel.]
- Blondie: Are they native here?
- Cueball (off-panel): No.
- Blondie: Will they control some invasive pest?
- Cueball (off-panel): Dunno!
- Blondie: Then...Why would you do this?
- [In a frameless panel Cueball is seen in front of the screen, which is seen from the side. He points to something on the screen with the pointer, while looking over his shoulder.]
- Cueball: I don't understand.
- Cueball: Did you see how small they are?
- Cueball: They're so round!
- Cueball: Those tiny ears!
- [Back to the four people behind the desk. Blondie and White Hat are in the same positions but Megan has both her hands up into her hair, and Hairy has one arm on the table, and the other is held up high with a finger pointing up.]
- Blondie: I see. I'm afraid we'll be denying your grant.
- White Hat: Hang on. He is right about their ears...
- Megan: The little feet!
- Hairy: I vote we fund them!
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