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Celebrity pandas and tigers hog the extinction limelight

Worldwide, around 20,000 endangered animal species are competing for scarce conservation funds – but just 80 ‘celebrity species’ are hogging most of the attention.

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The world has developed a very inefficient way of choosing which animals facing extinction to save, says Professor Hugh Possingham of the National Environmental Research Program’s (NERP) Environmental Decisions Hub and The University of Queensland (UQ).

This has led to extinctions that could have otherwise been avoided, he cautions.

“Around 80 mammal species are used by international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to raise funds for conservation,” Prof. Possingham says. “These flagship species, such as panda bears, tigers, lions and rhinos, are charismatic and have high marketing appeal, leading to the success of sponsorship programs.

“However, if money is being raised for 80 charismatic species, what happens to the other 1,000 threatened mammal species and the 19,000 threatened plants, birds, reptiles, frogs, insects and obscure species?”

Prof. Possingham explains that conservation funds are usually spent ‘within the neighbourhood’ – most conservation dollars are spent within 100 kilometres of where they were raised.

Also, the choice of which species to save is often based on ‘donor appeal’ and the animal’s closeness to extinction.

“So if you’re an obscure animal or plant in a remote place, you have next to no hope of getting conservation resources,” he says.

Prof. Possingham says that the way society chooses which...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Decision Point