Charismatic megafauna

Charismatic megafauna

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Charismatic megafauna are large animal species
Megafauna
In terrestrial zoology, megafauna are "giant", "very large" or "large" animals. The most common thresholds used are or...

 with widespread popular appeal that environmental activists use to achieve conservation
Conservation movement
The conservation movement, also known as nature conservation, is a political, environmental and a social movement that seeks to protect natural resources including animal, fungus and plant species as well as their habitat for the future....

 goals well beyond just those species. Prominent examples include the lion
Lion
The lion is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger...

, tiger
Tiger
The tiger is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to and weighing up to . Their most recognizable feature is a pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with lighter underparts...

, California condor
California Condor
The California Condor is a New World vulture, the largest North American land bird. Currently, this condor inhabits only the Grand Canyon area, Zion National Park, and coastal mountains of central and southern California and northern Baja California...

, bald eagle
Bald Eagle
The Bald Eagle is a bird of prey found in North America. It is the national bird and symbol of the United States of America. This sea eagle has two known sub-species and forms a species pair with the White-tailed Eagle...

, giant panda
Giant Panda
The giant panda, or panda is a bear native to central-western and south western China. It is easily recognized by its large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, over the ears, and across its round body. Though it belongs to the order Carnivora, the panda's diet is 99% bamboo...

, harp seal
Harp Seal
The harp seal or saddleback seal is a species of earless seal native to the northernmost Atlantic Ocean and adjacent parts of the Arctic Ocean. It now belongs to the monotypic genus Pagophilus. Its scientific name, Pagophilus groenlandicus, means "ice-lover from Greenland", and its synonym, Phoca...

, and humpback whale
Humpback Whale
The humpback whale is a species of baleen whale. One of the larger rorqual species, adults range in length from and weigh approximately . The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with unusually long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. It is an acrobatic animal, often breaching and slapping the...

.

Environmental activists and ecotourism
Ecotourism
Ecotourism is a form of tourism visiting fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas, intended as a low impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial tourism...

 seek to use the leverage provided by charismatic and well known species to achieve more subtle and far-reaching goals in species and biodiversity conservation. By directing public attention to the diminishing numbers of giant panda due to habitat loss, for example, conservation groups can raise support for the protection of the panda and for the entire ecosystem
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

 of which it is a part. (The giant panda is portrayed in the logo of the World Wide Fund for Nature
World Wide Fund for Nature
The World Wide Fund for Nature is an international non-governmental organization working on issues regarding the conservation, research and restoration of the environment, formerly named the World Wildlife Fund, which remains its official name in Canada and the United States...

.)

An editorial in The Economist
The Economist
The Economist is an English-language weekly news and international affairs publication owned by The Economist Newspaper Ltd. and edited in offices in the City of Westminster, London, England. Continuous publication began under founder James Wilson in September 1843...

magazine suggests that charismatic megafauna are particularly subject to taxonomic inflation, in that taxonomists will declare a subspecies
Subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

 to be a species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 because of the advocacy benefits of a unique species, rather than because of new scientific evidence. Another reason for inflating species may be the public's willingness to identify with species as sold through the ecotourism industry. In the public perception, ecotourism may be about seeing species, and the number of unique species increases the tourism biodiversity and value
Value (economics)
An economic value is the worth of a good or service as determined by the market.The economic value of a good or service has puzzled economists since the beginning of the discipline. First, economists tried to estimate the value of a good to an individual alone, and extend that definition to goods...

 of an area.

Beginning early in the twentieth century, efforts to reintroduce extirpated charismatic megafauna to ecosystems have been an interest of a number of private and non-government conservation organizations. Populations of species have been reintroduced from captive breeding programs (California Condor) and from zoo populations (the European Bison to Poland's Białowieża Forest). These and other reintroductions of charismatic megafauna, such as Przewalski's horse
Przewalski's Horse
Przewalski's Horse or Dzungarian Horse, is a rare and endangered subspecies of wild horse native to the steppes of central Asia, specifically China and Mongolia.At one time extinct in the wild, it has been reintroduced to its native habitat in Mongolia at the Khustain Nuruu...

 to its native Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

, have been to areas of limited, and often patchy, range compared to the historic ranges of the fauna.