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Does media presence create false sense of species’ success?

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The images of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes’ Tony the Tiger, Cheetos’ Chester Cheetah and Toys R Us’ Geoffrey the Giraffe surround us all the time. But how does the widespread presence of endangered charismatic species affect the public’s perception about their status in the wild? A research team set out to find the answer, in a study published in PLOS Biology. Lead author Franck Courchamp, CNRS director of research at the University of Paris-Saclay, France, first tried to determine what people deemed the top 10 charismatic species globally. He and his colleagues created a survey asking participants to list what they considered to be the 10 most charismatic species. At a science museum, the team asked attendees the same questions. To get more children’s perspectives, the team provided the questionnaire to children at schools in France, the UK and Spain. Then, the team took note of all of the species on zoo websites in the 100 largest cities in the world as well as animals displayed on the covers of Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks movies. They determined the 10 most charismatic species to be the tiger (Panthera tigris), lion (Panthera leo), elephant, giraffe, leopard (Panthera pardus), polar bear (Ursus maritimus), panda [...]

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