We Can’t Just Protect the Cute Animals

Trophy hunting is back on under the Trump administration, making animal conservation more critical than ever. The decision to lift the ban on importing body parts of elephants shot by trophy hunters is bad news for Africa and its inhabitants.

According to a much-touted study by Lindsey et al (2006), trophy hunting is an effective conservation tool. However, this analysis on the effects of trophy hunting on five of Africa’s iconic wild animal populations tells a different story.

In addition to fueling corruption, trophy hunting actively contributes to the decline of Africa’s Big Five. It also causes the loss of healthy individuals that are still key for reproduction and social cohesion.

But it’s not just elephants at risk. Rhinos, leopards, cheetahs and lions that are in trouble. More than 25,000 species of plants and animals around the globe are currently on the IUCN’s red list of endangered species.

Certain species of cheetah, northern white rhinos, giant tusked bull elephants and some great apes are just a few animals that could go extinct if we don’t do something about it. Unless we act quickly, the only place we’ll find these threatened animals and ecosystems is in a book.

Many global organizations work tirelessly in an effort to help mitigate the threats these animals face due climate change, loss of habitat, poaching and so on.

Selective Sympathy and Conserving the Cute

The African Wildlife Foundation surveyed 1,000 Americans to find out their views on these conservation efforts as well as to see how an animal’s appearance affected a potential donor’s support or donation.

According to their findings, one hundred percent of Americans claim they would give money to avoid losing animals forever to extinction. And 98 percent said they supported conservation efforts to protect endangered species.

The not so great news —for the less attractive animals, anyway—is that 43 percent of people admitted to being more likely to donate to cute endangered species. This selective sympathy exists in spite of the fact that 87 percent of people agree it’s unfair to only support the conservation of cute animals.

Selective Sympathy Infographic

The survey’s participants aren’t the only ones biased in favor of cuteness. For some media outlets, animals have to be endangered and good looking in order to make it onto their list.

If you fall into the ‘cute camp’ don’t feel too bad. We don’t mean to be selectively sympathetic, it’s just that certain  (large eyes and big heads) trigger our basic human instinct to nurture and protect.

A Changing Africa

Big or small, ugly or cute, right now thousands of species run the risk of extinction. We can no longer let our selective sympathy influence their protection.

While environmental factors play a role, human activity (urbanization of homelands, the threat of poaching, hunting, and climate change) lies at the heart of the threats these animals face.

For many, their numbers have dwindled to thousands and in some cases, mere hundreds. The African Wildlife Foundation, and many others like it, are doing what they can to ensure wildlife and wildlands can thrive in the modern world.

We know that our donations can be biased, but sometimes we need to be reminded that regardless of whether we donate to a baby elephant or a vulture, every contribution helps.

However we look at it, one thing is blatantly obvious. We all need to step up and do what we can for animal conservation. It’s up to each of us to make a difference or risk losing more and more species to extinction.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

84 comments

Cindy S
Past Member 4 months ago

all of them

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Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckx4 months ago

Do we kill our babies because they are ugly ? I hope not ! And on the contrary. The medical world is doing all they can to give premature babies, or underweight babies born in poor countries more possibilities to overcome their problems and become "normal" as all the others.
Then why should we have any right to decide which animals we need to save, and which not. The evolution over millions of years created a big diversity of animals of all kinds, birds, fish, 4-legged animals, frogs, etc.. Even corals, these very tiny animals must be kept safe and sound. If not many various species of small fish and even octopus would disappear. It is so important that we do not judge the animals by their appearance. I certainly would not prefer to keep some crocodiles, but if they would all disappear, the dead fish, animals in the water would just stay there rotting. Not so good for the water, causing more dead fish...

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Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole Heindryckx4 months ago

Every animal, big, small, cute or ugly have their own specific place in the ecosystem.
When certain species disappear, it will automatically cause the disappearance of other animals. Can we live without bees ?? Certainly not. If they are extinct, we will have to fertilize all fruit trees and other crops by hand. Can you imagine. The same applies for small birds, some butterflies, etc.. When small fishes should go extinct, larger ones will be without food and also starve. So, really each and any animal is needed to support the life of other animals. The same goes for many plants. When certain plants should disappear, animals who are thriving on their leaves or fruits will also go extinct. Mankind should not mingle or intervene with the original vegetation either. As I said, there is always something or someone depending on the existence of something else. Once one thing disappears, we are starting a roller coaster, we will never be able to stop !!

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Teresa W
Teresa W5 months ago

Cute or not, every species has its role in the ecosystem.

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Teresa W
Teresa W5 months ago

thank you

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Marija M
Marija M5 months ago

tks for sharing

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Jan S
Past Member 5 months ago

thanks for posting

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Danii P
Past Member 5 months ago

Thank you

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Danii P
Past Member 5 months ago

Thank you

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JinnySITEISSUES L
JinnySITEISSUES L5 months ago

We are all morally obligated to protect all animals cute or not that reside on this earth. Bottom line....They are all worthy and deserve our respect. Thanks Angela for posting.

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