And then there's the simple logistics of using, say, elephants or polar bears as poster boys. Picking an animal at the top of the food chain automatically means saving a larger area of land in order to preserve their hunting ground. Such attempts often have unforeseen positive side effects. For example, William Ripple and Robert Beschta have shown that the reintroduction of grey wolves at Yellowstone national park helped to regenerate the cottonwood and willow populations, as the wolves preyed on deer and elk who had been overeating the plants. This demonstrates a practice known as "the ecosystem method" of conservation, whereby species-rich regions are protected, rather than a single organism. Combining this practice with the charismatic appeal of the celebrity animal that lives there offers possibly the best chance to have your conservation cake and eat it.
So perhaps it's better to reverse the sentence above: save an orangutan, and you'll save the jungle. By saving the panda, perhaps we can save the world.
By Ellie Hughes, Online Journalism Intern
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