We should be thinking beyond ‘celebrity species’
If you could devote the rest of your life to saving just one species, which do you think would be the most popular public choice?
In October, National Geographic asked its vast readership that question on Facebook. And the surprisingly enlightened No 1 choice was not elephants, pandas, tigers, whales or orangutans.
The great majority of respondents picked bees! Quite clearly, NatGeo readers know the importance of bees to ecosystems and their inhabitants.
Twist in the tail
But the campaign has a twist in the tail: it focuses on only those species deemed worthy of saving, and how the winners and losers might be chosen.
Hugh Possingham, an expert in environmental decision-making at the University of Queensland (UQ), believes our obsession with ‘celebrity species’ is probably detrimental to thousands of other creatures in need.
An example referenced in the NatGeo article is the hugely expensive and ultimately futile campaign, backed by the Canadian government to save Nova Scotia’s Atlantic salmon.
There is growing agreement among conservationists that non-political priorities need to be set around which endangered species should be saved. Possingham says the model, known as Project Prioritisation Protocol (PPP), shows that concentrating on the value and threats to a species is inefficient.
He says New Zealand has adopted the PPP strategy and is getting more than double the bang for its conservation buck. Apparently, Australia is considering a similar approach.
(Footnote: Want to be truly moved by a piece about the loss of environment? I recommend this article in The Guardian by noted Australian author Richard Flanagan.)
Natural Images 2019