Issue 9
Monday, 06 June 2016
Charles Darwin University
E-news
The Tasmanian tiger could champion the conservation of the Northern Territory’s central rock rat. Photo: Patrick Hodgens
The Tasmanian tiger could champion the conservation of the Northern Territory’s central rock rat. Photo: Patrick Hodgens

Extinct species as conservation champions

By Briena Barrett

New research from Charles Darwin University and the University of Queensland shows there is opportunity for the Tasmanian tiger and other high-profile extinct species to champion future conservation efforts. 

CDU senior research fellow Dr Peter Kyne said that threatened species such as the Bengal tiger and giant panda were prime examples of “flagship” species and were central to campaigns used to raise awareness and funds for biodiversity conservation.

“However, extinct species have been largely overlooked for this role,” he said. “The dodo, passenger pigeon and Tasmanian tiger are all cultural and commercial icons that would appeal to the public as conservation flagships.”

Despite significant efforts worldwide to promote the recovery of threatened species, the number of threatened species continues to rise. There are currently 7678 species categorised as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

“This underscores the need to develop communication and marketing tools for conservation awareness, education and fund-raising,” Dr Kyne said.

“The concept of extinct flagships recognises the fate of lost species, but also links the past to the present; there may not be an opportunity to recover an extinct species, but there are opportunities to recover threatened species if action is taken.”

Some 52 species of mammals are threatened with extinction in Australia and most of these are not well known. The Tasmanian tiger, for example, could champion the conservation of these threatened mammal species, such as the Northern Territory’s central rock rat.

Dr Kyne said not all extinct species were suitable for flagship species and central traits such as public familiarity and appeal, as well as a link to threatened fauna, should be considered.

Read more about this research in the journal paper, Extinct flagships: linking extinct and threatened species, published in Oryx – The international Journal of Conservation.