Information about conservation status is more important than species appearance in the species preferences of potential conservation donors

Sarah Papworth, Polly Curtin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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There are huge differences in the conservation support and attention received by different species, maybe because of preferences for specific aesthetic traits, such as body size and colouring. If there are inherent preferences, then new flagship species should be aesthetically similar to existing successful flagship species and conservation campaigns should not feature less attractive species. However, cultural preconceptions about species and the covariance of traits make it difficult to determine the role of aesthetic traits. Both these problems can be overcome with imaginary animals. If preferences for certain species traits are inherent in the human psyche, then the same preferences should be found in both real and imaginary animals. Using an online survey with US participants, we find aesthetic traits are associated with preferences for real, but not imaginary animals. For both real and imaginary animals, small and declining populations are preferred. We therefore suggest organisations should not reject potential flagship species based on appearance. Consistent preferences for poor conservation status, plus the ability now to use our results to predict donations to real animal species, suggest conservation support for specific species could be encouraged if organisations communicate information about population sizes and trends.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-154
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Early online date11 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

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