Charging African elephant
Elephants are deemed ‘less worthy of saving’ by National Geographic readers. Photo: istock

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.

The survey is part of a campaign by the magazine highlighting some of the most innovative and unusual efforts to save disappearing species.

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.

Close-up of male orangutan eating a banana
Bees were considered more important than the orangutan. Photo: istock

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.

Non-political priorities

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

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©2018 TONY NEILSON All Rights Reserved. All images are protected by Australian copyright law and cannot be downloaded or reproduced without my permission. Please contact me.

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