Many of the most popular animals in the world are actually the ones in the most danger. This is what a new international survey reveals. And it includes the most popular stuffed animal characters which may create a false idea of their survival.
The study by Oregon State University and several other institutions reveals that the popularity of tigers, lions, polar bears and other animals may be bad for them. In fact, it may actually contribute for their downfall, the survey says.
The researchers gathered data by online surveys, school questionnaires, zoo websites, animated films, etc. They used this information to identify the 10 most popular and charismatic animals.
These animals are: tigers, lions, elephants, giraffes, leopards, pandas, cheetahs, polar bears, gray wolves and gorillas. As you can see, all of them are actually endangered. “I was surprised to see that although these 10 animals are the most charismatic, a major threat faced by nearly all of them is direct killing by humans, especially from hunting and snaring,” said William Ripple, co-author of the study, to KTVZ.
Ripple calls this ironic as many of these animals are often used in pop culture, marketing materials and more initiatives. He feels like this creates a false “virtual population” of animals that is not represented in real life. For example, the average French citizen will see more virtual lions through cartoon, logos, brands and photos in a month than there are actual wild lions left in West Africa.
“The top 10 charismatic animals are all mammals and include some of the largest carnivores and largest herbivores in the terrestrial world,” Ripple said. “The fact that humans are also large mammals might explain why the public has a strong affinity for these 10 mammals – it seems like people also love large animals much more than small ones.”
The issue is also visible in the toy market. About 48.6% of all non-teddy bear stuffed animals sold in the US on Amazon are one of the 10 most charismatic animals. There are more Sophie the giraffe stuffed animals sold in France in 2010 than there are real giraffes in Africa.
“The appearance of these beloved animals in stores, in movies, on television, and on a variety of products seems to be deluding the public into believing they are doing okay,” Ripple said. “If we don’t act in a concerted effort to save these species, that may soon be the only way anyone will see them.”