Charismatic Species and the Endangered Species Act & the Secret to becoming a Charismatic Animal: Have humans name you!
Charismatic Species and the Endangered Species Act & the Secret to becoming a Charismatic Animal: Have humans name you! Emma Maris wrote in High Country News http://www.hcn.org/external_files/digitaledition/49-01.pdf about how a Oregon wolf became famous due to its journeys take took him into California for a while and thus became the first known wolf in the state since the 1920s. He had been radio-collared in Oregon so that is how they were able to trace him. He had been assigned the name OR7 when collared but became known as “Journey.” According to Marris, he has become an inspiration to many and has been a subject of documentaries and a children’s book. Marris goes on to point out how much effort has gone into tracking the wolf by a USFWS biologist, John Stephenson, who she quotes as saying “You get attached,” he says. “We all do.” OR7 is a celebrity, and no doubt the Fish and Wildlife Service will go the extra mile to enable him to live out his life and die a wild wolf’s death, perhaps after getting kicked by an elk or starving to death in a bad winter.” Marris goes on to cite other examples of wildlife who have become famous and been “named” such as a sea otter “Mr. Enchilada” whose death due to a car led to the installation of speed bumps in the area. Moreover, she points out that environmental groups have long known about the importance of people’s identification with individual animals and used this in appeals for money even though is the survival of the species rather than individuals that should be their primary goal. Indeed, wildlife conservation efforts have for a long time tended to concentrate on charismatic animals because their appeal to humans makes the issue of conservation politically salient—more powerful for most than the abstract concept of biodiversity. The hope among conservationists is that efforts to preserve the charismatic will assist other unglamorous species and thus overall biodiversity. There is the hope that humans will become more knowledgeable about biodiversity and realize the importance of preserving all fora and fauna—I have seen a least one reference that I cite in my Wildlife Politics book that suggests this might be occurring though I don’t find this evidence convincing yet. For now, human identification with charismatic species appears to be the main vehicle for our hope that attacks on the Endangered Species Act can be beaten.
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