Can we save Australia's endangered wildlife by increasing species recognition?
Journal for Nature Conservation
School of Medical and Health Sciences
Australia's species extinction rate is one of the highest in the world. Yet, there is limited evidence regarding people's recognition of, and preferences and support for, Australian endangered wildlife. This paper presents survey responses from 223 Zoos Victoria visitors (response rate: 39.1 %) and 90 community members (Victoria, Australia). We examined people's top 10 overall (global) and Australian favourite animals, and conducted an in-depth exploration of recognition of, and preferences and support for, seven Australian endangered species identified as being at risk of extinction within the next decade, including: the leadbeater's possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri), eastern barred bandicoot (Perameles gunnii), helmeted honeyeater (Lichenostomus melanops cassidix), southern corroboree frog (Pseudophryne corroboree), Lord Howe Island (LHI) stick insect (Dryococelus australis), Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii), and the orange-bellied parrot (Neophema chrysogaster). Results indicate that the only Australian animals to feature in the overall top 10 favourite list were the kangaroo (ranked 9th for both sample groups) and koala (ranked 6th and 10th for the community and zoo sample, respectively). The Tasmanian devil had the highest rate of recognition ( > 86 %), in comparison to the remaining six species (1.2–7.3 % across both samples). Endangered species were not prominent in the top favourite Australian species. Australian endangered species’ likeability ratings typically followed the pattern of mammals being most likeable (Tasmanian devil and leadbeater's possum), followed by birds, frogs, and insects (helmeted honeyeater, southern corroboree frog, and LHI stick insect). Importantly, for most endangered native species featured (4/7 and 6/7; zoo and community, respectively), simply being able to recognise species significantly (p <. 05) increased people's willingness to support their conservation. Findings underscore several powerful opportunities for future conservation programs to contribute to Australian endangered species conservation by striving to increase public familiarity with Australian species most at risk of extinction.