Who cares about the blobfish?

Hugh Possingham and his team are making conservation more efficient. They’re helping to save less fashionable threatened species by getting more bang for the bucks donated to cute and cuddly species.

The team of ecologists and mathematicians in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Environmental Decisions (CEED) worked with the New Zealand government to assess how to better spend money that is donated to conservation. They’ve shown that by protecting habitats shared by several different species, the money donated to charismatic ones can be stretched further to save other species as well.

Could this koala help save less cute species? 9credit: Liana Joseph
Could this koala help save less cute species? (credit: Liana Joseph)

“The way we currently attempt to save species is inefficient, choosing species that are popular or charismatic, like koalas and tigers, over those that are less well known or even ugly, like the blobfish,” says Hugh, ARC Laureate Fellow and Director of CEED.

We also give money to threatened species without taking into account how useful that species is in their ecosystem, or how genetically distinct they are.

But these donations could now work in favour of the less popular species.

“Keeping the spotlight on the charismatic species means we can attract more conservation funding,” explains Hugh. “We can then focus on promoting conservation activities that tackle a threat, like land clearing, which endangers several other species as well as the cuddly ones, giving more species a better chance of survival.”

“This keeps private donors happy, because they see the outcomes they invested in, and it keeps us happy knowing that we’re conserving even more species.”

For more information: ARC Centre of Excellence in Environmental Decisions, Hugh Possingham, h.possingham@uq.edu.au, ceed.edu.au

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