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Over the last 50 years there has been increasing use of charismatic large mammals and birds as ‘flagship species’ to raise funds and promote the ethos of conservation. However, species chosen to appeal to donor and membership groups may not necessarily be considered popular among local communities. A growing recognition of the need to engage local communities in conservation makes them an increasingly important audience for information about conservation. In such situations an awareness of the local perception and value of different species is central to choosing effective flagships. Emphasising this, we propose 10 criteria for the selection of flagship species. We then describe three examples of local flagship species and assess their use against these criteria: the Asian elephant Elephas maximus for the conservation of landscapes in Aceh, Indonesia, the flying fox Pteropus voeltzkowi for forest protection on Pemba Island, Tanzania, and the ceiba or kapok tree Ceiba pentandra for the conservation of forests in Belize.
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