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Extinct flagships: linking extinct and threatened species

  • Peter M. Kyne (a1) and Vanessa M. Adams (a1)

Despite much effort to promote the conservation and recovery of threatened species, the extent of the current list of threatened vertebrates (> 7,600 species) underscores the need to develop novel communication and marketing tools to raise awareness and funding for their conservation. Although flagship species have been widely used in conservation marketing, the flagship role of extinct species has been largely overlooked and the status of lost species is rarely associated with the status of extant species facing a high risk of extinction. Some extinct species (e.g. the dodo Raphus cucullatus and the thylacine Thylacinus cynocephalus) are cultural and commercial icons and therefore familiar, and may appeal to the public as conservation flagships. We propose a wider use of extinct flagships to raise awareness for the conservation of threatened species by making a direct link between already extinct species and extant species at risk of extinction. We present examples of publicly recognized and iconic extinct species that could be used in marketing for the conservation of threatened species. These extinct species are familiar and may be readily linked to threatened species or species groups. We outline a roadmap for testing their appeal under the extinct flagship concept, through market research. If research identifies that a cognitive link is made between the fate of an extinct species (i.e. they went extinct from human causes) and what may happen to threatened species (i.e. they are at risk of extinction from human causes), extinct species may well have a wider role to play as conservation flagships.

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Also at: The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia

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