Flagship individuals in biodiversity conservation

12 October 2023

Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

Ivan Jarić, Iran C Normande, Ugo Arbieu, Franck Courchamp, Sarah L Crowley, Jonathan M Jeschke, Uri Roll, Kate Sherren, Laura Thomas-Walters, Diogo Veríssimo, Richard J Ladle. Front Ecol Environ 2023; doi:10.1002/fee.2599

View Journal Article / Working Paper

Flagship species are an important tool for mobilizing support for conservation. Here, we extend this concept to include individual organisms, whose characteristics, fates, and connections to people can garner public attention, attract conservation support, and spur activism. Flagship individuals typically share a similar suite of characteristics, including (1) species-level traits associated with charisma; (2) individual traits that are unique or distinctive; (3) a high degree of exposure to humans; and (4) a known, noteworthy life history or fate. The interplay between these characteristics and human agency establishes unique connections between flagship individuals and people, and generates widespread media attention. We discuss how the selection and promotion of flagship individuals can inspire empathy and, ultimately, conservation action. Finally, we identify the limitations of the flagship individual approach, while arguing that, if carefully and strategically implemented, it has the potential to produce substantial benefits for conservation policy and practice.