What is the most popular paradox

Paradox: Popular animals particularly endangered

Giraffes, lions and elephants are among the most popular animal species - and paradoxically for this very reason they are among the most threatened: Because these animals appear so often in the media that many people ignore their endangerment.

For their study, researchers led by the ecologist Franck Courchamp from the University of Paris-Sud asked more than 4,700 people in France, Spain, England and the USA which wild animals they found most charismatic.

The most popular were tigers, lions, elephants and giraffes, Courchamp told science.ORF.at: “What surprises us is that only a few of these animals know that people are threatened.” Most people knew that the tiger is one of the endangered species. With the giraffes and lions, however, around 60 percent of the participants thought that they were not endangered. And therefore did not consider it necessary to campaign for the protection of the species.

More lions in pictures than in West Africa

“People think that their favorite animals are common in nature because they see them all the time in books, films and in advertisements,” suspects Courchamp. He and his colleagues analyzed cartoons from Disney and Pixar and found that these animals were seen most often there.

Ö1 shipment notice

An article in Wissen aktuell is also dedicated to the topic: April 13th, 1:55 pm.

Forty-two study participants then asked them to write down for a week how often they saw, for example, a picture of a lion on posters, in books, on television and on the Internet: “On average, a person saw more than four lions in one day. That means that in a year she was confronted with more images of lions than live in West Africa. There are only 400 animals left there. "

AFP PHOTO / Pablo PORCIUNCULA

The king is in danger

According to the environmental organization WWF, one fifth of the 5,500 mammal species on earth are either endangered or critically endangered. Research assumes that species protection primarily benefits known and popular animal species.

Distorted perception

The team of ecologists around Franck Courchamp doubts that: The populations of the four most popular animals - tiger, lion, elephant and giraffe - have decreased dramatically. For example, the number of giraffes is 40 percent less today than it was three decades ago.

"While there are still 100,000 giraffes, the rubber toy 'Sophie la girafe' was sold eight times as often in France in 2010," says Courchamp. The ecologist criticizes the distorted perception that arises when “an animal appears more often in our culture than in nature”. He therefore sees the company as having an obligation. His suggestion: "Anyone who uses pictures of animals should also invest part of the profit in protecting species."

Katharina Gruber, Ö1 Science

More on the topic: