Charisma & Conservation

The video above stands on its own, worthy of a few minutes, but it brings to mind the role of charisma in conservation. We find it easier to worry about large, iconic species. Some creatures are brought back from the brink of extinction, only to experience the same fear and hatred, or worse, fate that brought them to that brink in the first place.  The editorial below, from today’s Guardian, reminds us that the uniquely human form of charisma called celebrity plays its own role, raising interesting questions.  Why celebrate not vultures and their mostly unknown guardians? Adam Welz has a few relevant thoughts:

My last post was about the need to reduce demand for rhino horn and ivory in Asia to stem Africa’s current poaching crisis. This week my inbox bulged with photos of mega-celebs trying to do just that.

Actor Edward Norton filmed a couple of public service announcements in New York on Tuesday to raise awareness of the illegal ivory trade, and yesterday Prince William, David Beckham and basketball player Yao Ming got together in London to film another brace of spots about rhino and elephant killing. The ads will go out this year as part of campaigns put together by the nonprofit WildAid, working in conjunction with other organisations.

Beckham is a recent addition to a growing squad of pachyderm-protecting personalities. Yao Ming has for years lent his name to various wildlife causes, including campaigns to end shark finning and the use of ivory. Norton is the president of the US board of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, which works in East Africa. Prince William has a well-known love for the wilderness and has just launched United for Wildlife, an alliance of seven of the world’s largest conservation organisations whose first order of business will be tackling the illegal wildlife trade.

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