MEERKATS are endearing creatures. Indeed, they are so endearing that they have been turned into characters in a long-running series of advertisements on British television for a price-comparison website. But nothing comes from nothing. Thirty years ago, few non-zoologists would have heard of these social mongooses and the joke would not have worked. The animals were brought to public prominence by a television documentary, “Meerkats United”, which described the doings of a group of them in the Kalahari, where they live. That documentary relied, in turn, on a research project run by David Macdonald, a zoologist at Oxford University. In essence, meerkats as a cultural phenomenon were created by this project.
Had that creation been purely artistic, it would be protected by copyright. Royalties derived from such copyright might then have been used for further study and conservation of the animals in question. Sadly for zoologists, the natural world is not covered by copyright…Continue reading