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Flagship species on covers of US conservation and nature magazines

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Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

B.C. and K.M. were both supported by National Science Foundation fellowships. We thank the Animal Behavior Graduate Group Thursday night meetings, Annie Leonard, and Andy Marshall for useful suggestions.

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Correspondence to Tim Caro.

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Clucas, B., McHugh, K. & Caro, T. Flagship species on covers of US conservation and nature magazines. Biodivers Conserv 17, 1517–1528 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-008-9361-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-008-9361-0

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