Charismatic megafauna

Charismatic megafauna

Charismatic megafauna are large animal species with widespread popular appeal that environmental activists use to achieve conservation goals well beyond just those species.[citation needed] Prominent examples include the lion, tiger, California condor, bald eagle, giant panda, harp seal, and humpback whale.[1]

Environmental activists and ecotourism seek to use the leverage provided by charismatic and well known species to achieve more subtle and far-reaching goals in species and biodiversity conservation.[citation needed] By directing public attention to the diminishing numbers of giant panda due to habitat loss, for example, conservation groups can raise support for the protection of the panda and for the entire ecosystem of which it is a part.[citation needed] (The giant panda is portrayed in the logo of the World Wide Fund for Nature.)

An editorial in The Economist magazine suggests that charismatic megafauna are particularly subject to taxonomic inflation, in that taxonomists will declare a subspecies to be a species because of the advocacy benefits of a unique species, rather than because of new scientific evidence.[2] Another reason for inflating species may be the public's willingness to identify with species as sold through the ecotourism industry. In the public perception, ecotourism may be about seeing species, and the number of unique species increases the tourism biodiversity and value of an area.[3][4]

Beginning early in the twentieth century, efforts to reintroduce extirpated charismatic megafauna to ecosystems have been an interest of a number of private and non-government conservation organizations.[5] Populations of species have been reintroduced from captive breeding programs (California Condor) and from zoo populations (the European Bison to Poland's Białowieża Forest).[6] These and other reintroductions of charismatic megafauna, such as Przewalski's horse to its native Mongolia, have been to areas of limited, and often patchy, range compared to the historic ranges of the fauna.[7]


  1. ^ Donald G. Kaufman; Cecilia M. Franz (January 2000). Biosphere 2000: Protecting Our Global Environment. Kendall Hunt. p. 342. ISBN 9780787257132. 
  2. ^ "Species inflation: Hail Linnaeus", The Economist, May 17, 2007
  3. ^ Higham, James (2007). Critical Issues in Ecotourism: understanding a complex tourism phenomenon. Butterworth-Heinemann. pp. 76–77. ISBN 0750668784. 
  4. ^ Weaver, David (2002). Ecotourism. John Wiley & Sons Australia Ltd. p. 113. ISBN 0471422304. 
  5. ^ Miller, C. R.; L. P. Waits, and P. Joyce (December 2006). "Phylogeography and mitochondrial diversity of extirpated brown bear (Ursus arctos) populations in the contiguous United States and Mexico". Molecular Ecology (Blackwell Synergy) 15 (14): 4477–4485. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2006.03097.x. PMID 17107477. 
  6. ^ Mysterud, A; K. A. Bartoń, B. Jędrzejewska, Z. A. Krasiński, M. Niedziałkowska, J. F. Kamler, N. G. Yoccoz, and N. C. Stenseth (2007). "Population ecology and conservation of endangered megafauna: the case of European bison in Białowiez’a Primeval Forest, Poland". Animal Conservation 10 (1): 77–87. doi:10.1111/j.1469-1795.2006.00075.x. 
  7. ^ Rugenstein, Dustin R.; Daniel I. Rubenstein, Paul W. Sherman, Thomas A. Gavin (2006). "Pleistocene Park: Does re-wilding North America represent sound conservation for the 21st century?". Biological Conservation (Elsevier) 132 (2): 232–238. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2006.04.003. 

Further reading

  • Petersen, Shannon (1999). "Congress and charismatic megafauna: a legislative history of the Endangered Species Act". Environmental Law 29. 
  • Leader-Williams, N. & H. T. Dublin (2000). "Charismatic megafauna as 'flagship species'". In Entwistle, A. and N. Dunstone. Priorities for the Conservation of Mammalian Diversity: Has the Panda had its Day?. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 53–81. ISBN 0 521 77279 6. 
  • Goodwin, H. and N. Leader-Williams (2000). "Tourism and protected areas – distorting conservation priorities towards charismatic megafauna?". In Entwistle, A. and N. Dunstone. Priorities for the Conservation of Mammalian Biodiversity: Has the Panda had its Day?. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 257–275. ISBN 0 521 77279 6. 
  • Barney, Erin C., Joel J. Mintzes and Chiung-Fen Yen (2005). "Assessing Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behavior toward Charismatic Megafauna: The Case of Dolphins". Journal of Environmental Education 36 (2): 41–55. doi:10.3200/JOEE.36.2.41-55. 

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