Date: 27.04.2018

Animals in the marketing media deceive us about their survival in the wild

The most “charismatic” species have a high status in conservation biology and it is commonly claimed that these species experience a privileged level of attention, often at the expense of other, more ordinary species. However, in a study publishing April 12 in PLOS Biology, an international research team (from France, USA, Czech Republic, Germany, Serbia and Sweden) led by Franck Courchamp, CNRS Director of Research at the University of Paris Saclay, France, find that these animals’ popularity may be their downfall, leading to inappropriate complacency about their chances of survival.

The most “charismatic” species have a high status in conservation biology and it is commonly claimed that these species experience a privileged level of attention, often at the expense of other, more ordinary species. However, in a study publishing April 12 in PLOS Biology, an international research team (from France, USA, Czech Republic, Germany, Serbia and Sweden) led by Franck Courchamp, CNRS Director of Research at the University of Paris Saclay, France, find that these animals’ popularity may be their downfall, leading to inappropriate complacency about their chances of survival.

The researchers used a combination of online surveys, school questionnaires, zoo websites and animated movies to identify the 10 most charismatic animals. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the tiger, the lion and the elephant took the lead; however, the researchers were astonished to discover that these species are highly threatened in the wild, with greater declines in recent years.

The scientific community, in fact, knows little about these species; for example, the precise number of panthers, elephants or gorillas living on Earth is unknown, even though this information seems important to establish. "This line of research is focused on broad questions related to the global conservation efforts, general trends, public support and drivers of public awareness and interest," says Ivan Jarić, scientist at the Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic, who did the major part of the analysis of the status of each species, based on the extensive literature survey and data analysis.The researchers also found that despite the public adoring these species, people paradoxically appear oblivious to the fact that these animals are close to extinction, and therefore fail to mobilize to protect them. Why might this be?

The authors of this study hypothesized that the omnipresence of these animals in our culture and in the marketing media that surround us might form a deceptive “virtual population” that actively biases the public’s perception of the status of these animals in the wild, leading the public to believe that that they are more numerous that they actually are.

By continuously seeing virtual representations of these species in movies, books, toys, commercials, etc., people may receive the impression that these animals have healthy populations in the wild. For example, the researchers showed that a French person will see on average more virtual lions (photos, cartoons, logos and brands) in a month than there are wild lions left in all of West Africa. “Unknowingly, companies using giraffes, cheetahs or polar bears for marketing purposes may be actively contributing to the false perception that these animals are not at risk of extinction, and therefore not in need of conservation”, says Franck Courchamp.

To rectify this unfortunate effect, the researchers propose that companies using the image of threatened species for marketing purposes should contribute to information campaigns to promote their conservation, and that a part of the (often substantial) marketing benefits be used to fund the protection of the species that represent them.

Citation: Courchamp F, Jaric I, Albert C, Meinard Y, Ripple WJ, Chapron G (2018) The paradoxical extinction of the most charismatic animals. PLoS Biol 16(4): e2003997. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2003997

Back

 

CONTACT

Biology Centre CAS
Branišovská 1160/31
370 05 České Budějovice

 

+420 387 775 111 (switchboard)
+420 387 775 051 (secretariat)
+420 778 468 552 (for media)
Data box: r84nds8

NEWS FROM WEB

Biologické centrum Google mapa

Login to the intranet

To log into the intranet enter your login details

×