There’s a phrase that describes species like polar bears, wolves, gorillas and giant pandas: “charismatic megafauna.”
There’s nothing wrong with being a large, good-looking species, but charisma can often come with a price. For one thing, all the species I just listed are endangered — many of them in no small part to their attractiveness.
Perhaps more importantly, though, humans — including journalists — can sometimes give these charismatic species a bit too much of the spotlight. That leaves a lot of other species on the sidelines. What about snails, bats, snakes, fish, mussels, insects and even plants? Do they get the attention they need from people? Or do they get left behind by the conservation community? Beyond that, what can we do to give these species more focus, and why do they deserve the effort?
To help address these questions, I gathered an all-star team of experts for a panel discussion called “Beyond Megafauna,” which took place in Pittsburgh last month at the annual conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists. Joining me on the panel were wildlife journalist Jason Bittel; Tierra Curry, senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity (publishers of The Revelator); and Justin Wheeler, communications specialist with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
You can hear the whole conversation — including some great questions from the journalists in the audience — below:
- Eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii) by Gary Peeples/USFWS
- Bonytail chub (Gila elegans) by Kevin Kappenman/USFWS
- Mission blue butterfly (Aricia icarioides missionensis) by Patrick Kobernus/USFWS
- Tobusch fishhook cactus (Ancistrocactus tobuschii) by Chris Best/USFWS
- Clubshell mussel (Pleurobema clava) by Craig Stihler/USFWS