Charismatic animals such as tigers and elephants are endangered and their popularity itself may be making the situation worse.
Researchers have identified the ten most charismatic animals worldwide, and all of them are endangered. And, paradoxically, popularity could be making their chances of survival even worse. Previous studies have found that ‘charismatic megafauna’ such as lions, polar bears and other much-loved animals are not representative of wider biodiversity, and conservationists have argued that focus on popular animals takes away limited conservation funding from less popular species, or threatened ecosystems. However, a study published in PLOS Biology has found that despite these animals’ ubiquitous presence in films, commercial and toys, their threat of extinction remains high, and there is a false public perception that these animals are not actually under threat. Franck Courchamp from the University of Paris Saclay, France and an international research team, used a variety of methods to first determine the most charismatic animals, including online surveys, school questionnaires, zoo websites and animated movies. The results ended up being ten “animals” comprising thirteen species of mammal, as elephants and gorillas are represented by three and two species, respectively. In order of popularity, the animals are:
- the tiger (Panthera tigris),
- the lion (P. leo),
- the elephant (Loxodonta africana, L. cyclotis, and Elephas maximus),
- the giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis),
- the leopard (P. pardus),
- the panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca),
- the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus),
- the polar bear (Ursus maritimus),
- the gray wolf (Canis lupus),
- the gorilla (Gorilla beringei and G. gorilla).
With the exception of the gray wolf, all of these species are highly threatened in the wild, with greater declines in recent years. Most are large, mobile species who now occupy a fraction of their former distribution, and their trajectory looks grim without a massive conservation effort. However, a new study by National Geographic shows the following as world’s most charismatic animals: Can you name them?