Pen Ultimate / An Endangered Species - Moi?

Advertising can be a beastly, if sometimes educational, business.

Due diligence - which is a term I picked up while perusing the financial press - prompts me to admit that when it comes to Globes, the Israeli business daily, I'm indifferent. Business is not my forte, to put it mildly. But I guess I'd better not go on with this line of thought, if I don't want to cry.

On the other hand, I'm very partial to the Hebrew version of TheMarker, the finance and market-news daily. I have a vested interest in its success, as it is "major growth engine for the Haaretz Group as a whole," according to Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken, speaking on the occasion of the appointment of Guy Rolnik, TheMarker founder and editor-in-chief, as deputy publisher of the group. I simply believe that as long as the Haaretz Group continues to grow, they will keep me on their payroll, writing for the newspaper that is part of this group.

However, although I'm not really "into" business, finance and stock market news, I do leaf through the pages of TheMarker every morning; once in a while it even makes my day. When the market goes up, for example, I'm in a melancholic mood, but when it crashes, I rejoice, because I don't own any stocks anyway.

But, seriously, I'm thankful to TheMarker and McCann Erickson advertising agency for educating me on the subject of "endangered species." Since TheMarker tabloid became part of Haaretz's daily paper, it has featured the Giant Panda as the star of its ad campaign. This charming, black-and-white animal is a symbol both of the World Wildlife Foundation and of China, whose mammoth economy looms large on the global horizon. The Giant Panda is an endangered species, with only 1,600 specimens alive, mostly in China and in the world's zoos.

TheMarker and Globes compete for the same readers, who are interested in economics and other such stuff. But I'm not of that ilk, which I guess makes me, ipso facto, an endangered species.

Round One of the skirmish between them involving animals in an advertising campaign saw TheMarker commissioning Ephraim Sidon to write a book for children about a wise panda that advises young animals on how to put the pink (the color of Globes' pages) parakeet out of business.

Now comes Round Two. Thanks to TheMarker and McCann Erickson I was introduced to another endangered species. An ad displayed on a two-page spread in the (Hebrew) Haaretz broadsheet proclaims, in black and white: "The tapir, Malaysia's national animal, is an endangered species. There are only 350 alive today, 70 of them females." There is a huge green asterisk and the footnote it refers us to says, in green and black (green ostensibly being the color of hope, but also of jealousy): "The data are so unequivocal that it does not really matter what we write here."

The data below, in black and white, compare the readerships of TheMarker and of Globes, according to a TGI poll conducted among a group of Jewish Israelis 18 years of age and older. It turns out that TheMarker has 68 percent more readers daily than Globes (including me), 71 percent more high-income readers (not me), 157 percent more high-tech readers (also not me), and 30 percent more senior executives (still not me).

I'm a great fan of such unequivocal data, for obvious reasons (see above), but I'm an even greater fan of things that do not matter, so I decided to check up on the tapir. It is not, as far as I could ascertain, Malaysia's national animal. The country in question, which prefers to call itself the Malayan Peninsula, to differentiate itself from its identity during the colonial era, does not have one, although there are two tigers on its coat of arms. The tapir the copy-writer probably had in mind is the Malayan tapir (in Hebrew, the names would both sound the same); its scientific name is tapirus indicus, or Indian tapir (also known as the Asian tapir). It can be found in Myanamar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. Like the three other species of the tapir - tapirus pinchague, the mountain tapir whose natural habitat is the Andes; tapirus terrestris, the lowland tapir, which lives in Brazil and South America; and tapirus bairdii (Baird's tapir), a native of Mexico, Central America and Colombia - it is an endangered species indeed, but as far as I could see, no one can say how many specimens of tapirus indicus actually exist today in the wild.

The tapir is a large herbivorous, nocturnal mammal that roughly resembles a pig (or horse, depending on the site you consult), with a short prehensile snout. The size varies between species, but most tapirs are about 2 meters (7 ft.) long, stand about a meter (3 ft.) high at the shoulder, and weigh between 150 and 300 kilos (330 to 700 lbs.). Their fur is short and ranges in color from reddish-brown to gray to nearly black, with the notable exceptions of the Malayan tapir, which has a white, saddle-shaped marking on its back. All tapirs have oval, white-tipped ears; rounded, protruding rear ends with stubby tails; and splayed, hoofed feet, with four toes on the front feet and three on the hind ones, which help them walk on muddy and soft ground. They are solitary animals, although the calf follows the mother and the father sometimes joins them. They can run and swim well. The Malayan tapir is the biggest of the species.

In the wild, the tapir's diet consists of fruit, berries and leaves, particularly young, tender growth. They are prey to tigers, pumas and humans. Although the Malayan tapir is protected by law, a young tapir can fetch about $6,000 (more info can be found on the Web).

But the dollar is devaluating all over the world as I write this. I know because I read all about it in TheMarker.

All of the above reminds me of the story about Alfred A. Knopf, the publisher who was very proud of a book he had published about dolphins. He gave the book as a present to the 12-year-old daughter of friends, and in due course received a thank-you note from her: "Dear Mr. Knopf, thank you very much for the book from which I have learned more than I ever wished to know about dolphins."

So why am I bothering you with so many facts about the Malayan tapir? To show that you can learn a lot from TheMarker, not only about matters financial, and also to point out that high-income, high-tech and senior executives may not care much about the Malayan tapir being an endangered species. However, to the tapir it does matter - a lot. And I somehow feel like one myself.