Original Paper

Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 1517-1528

First online:

Flagship species on covers of US conservation and nature magazines

  • Barbara ClucasAffiliated withAnimal Behavior Graduate Group, University of California
  • , Katherine McHughAffiliated withAnimal Behavior Graduate Group, University of California
  • , Tim CaroAffiliated withDepartment of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology, University of California Email author 

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Some conservation organizations publish magazines that showcase current conservation and research projects, attract new subscribers and maintain membership, often using flagship species to promote these objectives. This study investigates the nature of flagship species featured on the covers of ten representative US conservation and nature magazines, Defenders, National Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation, Zoonooz, Nature Conservancy, Outdoor America, Sierra, Audubon, California Wild and Natural History. Operationally defining flagship species by diet, taxonomic order, body size and IUCN status, we found that magazines tend to use mammal and bird species rather than invertebrate, fish, amphibian, reptile or plant taxa on their covers. Featured birds were mostly omnivorous or piscivorous, large-bodied and of little conservation concern; featured mammals were mainly carnivorous or herbivorous, large-bodied and of considerable conservation concern. These analyses confirm, for the first time, anecdotal observations about conservation organizations focusing their publicity and programmes on large, charismatic species to raise awareness and funds and raise the spectre that the public may be exposed to only a selected sample of conservation problems.


Body size Diet Endangered status Taxon