Animals’ popularity is a ‘disadvantage’ to their safety according to a survey. Some of the public’s best loved animals such as lions, tigers and elephants are at a greater risk than public perception suggests and this is thought to be due to advertising and branding which use these animals.
Researchers believe that using animals such as lions and tigers in branding leads people to believe that they are thriving in the wild, when the reality of the situation is that these animals are under threat. The public believe that some animals are more ‘charismatic’ than others, with lions, elephants and tigers being amongst the animals perceived this way.
Dr Franck Courchamp, the study’s lead author said: “There is a regular claim that the most charismatic species are diverting most of the time and resources [in conservation]. I started wondering whether this was true and [whether it would be] followed by better results in conservation.”
Courchamp and his team then began to find out which species the public believed to be considered charismatic, and they used a survey which was supplemented with a classroom questionnaire in a range of languages. They asked participants to name the species that they considered to be the most charismatic.
The top ten animals were: tiger, lion, elephant, giraffe, leopard, panda, cheetah, polar bear, wolf and gorilla. Following this, the researchers asked participants in France to note the ‘virtual’ populations of the animals that they saw over the week.
The results showed that people saw an average of 4.4 lions in logos, cartoons, magazines and other sources every day.
Courchamp said: “Mostly I think because people see giraffes and lions every day of their life, they unconsciously think they are in abundance.”
However, nine out of the ten animals listed are classified as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and yet many of the participants believed that these animals were not under threat. Around half of the participants believed that Critically Endangered gorillas were not at risk.
What do you think about this issue? How can public perception about some of the best known animals be changed?