What are the most charismatic wild animals?
Researchers at the University Paris-Sud have identified 20 species of wild animals considered as the most “charismatic,” a decisive criterion in the development of conservation campaigns.
- Is the Tiger more majestic than the whale?
- Is the panda cuter than the koala?
- Is the big white shark adorable?
Three researchers in ecology and evolutionary biology have addressed the issue.
With two online questionnaires – one with over 4,500 responses in 69 countries – a survey of more than 200 children, an animal study showcased at 100 large zoos and their poster representation Disney and Pixar films, researchers from Paris-South have identified 20 animals presented as “charismatic.”
The combination of these four sources, not the separate questionnaires, allowed them to establish a relative score for each wild animal and to rank. The Tiger wins on the first step of the podium, followed closely by the lion and the elephant.
Giraffe, panther, panda, cheetah, polar bear, wolf, gorilla, dolphins, rhinoceros … All follow each other fairly closely, in a “relatively homogeneous” distribution according to the researchers.
They have deliberately followed the formulations of the general public: the first questionnaires, which asked to name “ten charismatic animals,” did not suggest any particular animal – except that it must be wild. To appear in the classification species and subspecies without distinction, especially in the case of elephants.
“Probably Slightly Less Boring Than Working”, “dangerous”, “rare” … The variety of “charisma.”
An animal is not considered “charismatic” necessarily because it is “beautiful,” “cute,” or “majestic,” also raises the academic work. In a second step, the respondents had to associate one or more of six traits with the ten animals on their list. Two on the appearance (“beautiful” and “cute”), two about the human (“dangerous” and “impressive”) and two last on their conservation (“endangered” and “rare”).
It appears that the Tiger, the lion, and the elephant, yet at the top of the ranking, are not the most commonly associated with the terms “beautiful” or “cute.” On the other hand, they are easily judged “dangerous” or “impressive.” All traits have been associated with all species, except the great white shark that no one has considered “cute,” according to the researchers.
Scientists say that because of the geographical focus of the study (mainly in the West) and the imbalance between male and female respondents (the vast majority), the results are not representative of the world’s population.
Charisma, useful for campaigning
Classifying species, according to their charisma, may seem futile, useless, or inappropriate. It is useful in terms of species conservation, argue the authors of the study.
“Conservation programs for endangered species work best when the general public supports them in terms of funding, regulation or participatory programs,” they recall.
The researchers stress the importance, in terms of communication, to know the degree of the charisma of a species, before choosing it as the standard bearer of a campaign, for example. The panda has become a double-edged emblem. It serves both as a strategic tool for China and to raise public awareness of the protection of its natural environment. Since the 1960s, he has represented the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).