Flagship species

Project logo showing the use of the Zanzibar red colobus as the flagship species for a conservation organization in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
Logo showing the use of the Eurasian lynx as the flagship species for a protected area in Poland
Poster logo showing the use of the bald eagle as the flagship species for forests in the United States
Display showing the use of the tiger as the flagship species for a campaign at Berijam lake in Kodaikanal, India
The twenty-five biodiversity hotspots (green) as indicated in Myers, N., et al. (2000) "Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities." Nature 403:853–858. Hotspots are a conservation flagship scheme used to raise awareness and funds for the regions of the world with more endemic species and which are under larger threat of disappearing
500 Tanzanian shillings bank note showing the use of the African buffalo as a flagship species for the country's wildlife.
5000 Tanzanian shillings bank note showing the use of the Black rhinoceros as a flagship species for the country's wildlife.
10000 Tanzanian shillings bank note showing the use of the African savanna elephant as a flagship species for the country's wildlife.

The concept of flagship species has its genesis in the field of conservation biology. The flagship species concept holds that by raising the profile of a particular species, it can successfully leverage more support for biodiversity conservation at large in a particular context.[1]


Several definitions have been advanced for the flagship species concept and for some time been there has been confusion even in the academic literature.[2] Most of the latest definitions focus on the strategic and socio-economical character of the concept, with a recent publication establishing a clear link with the marketing field.[2]

The term flagship is linked to the metaphor of representation. In its popular usage, flagships are viewed as ambassadors or icons for a conservation project or movement.[5]

However, more recently, work in the field of microbiology[6][7] has started to use the concept of flagship species in a distinct way. This work relates to the biogeography of micro-organisms and uses particular species because "eyecatching “flagships” with conspicuous size and/or morphology are the best distribution indicators".[6]


Examples of flagship species include the Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris), the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), the Golden lion tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia), the African elephant (Loxodonta sp.) and Asian elephant (Elephas maximus).[2][8]

Flagship species can represent an environmental feature (e.g. a species or ecosystem), cause (e.g. climate change or ocean acidification), organization (e.g. NGO or government department) or geographic region (e.g. state or protected area).[2][9][10]


The flagship species concept appears to have become popular around the mid 1980s[11] within the debate on how to prioritise species for conservation. The first widely available references to use the flagship concept applied it to both neotropical primates[12] and African elephants and rhinos,[13] in the typical mammal centric approach that still dominates how the concept is used today[8][10][14]

The use of the concept has been largely dominated by large bodied species,[15] especially mammals,[14] although species from other taxonomic groups have occasionally been used[16]


Flagship species can be selected according to many different characteristics depending on what is valued by the audience they try to target.[2][10] This is best illustrated by the differences in recommendations made for flagship species selection targeting different target audiences such as local communities.[17] and tourists.[15]


Several limitations have been recognized concerning the use of flagship species:[1]

Flagships and conflict

A major challenge for the deployment of several flagship species in non-Western contexts is that they may come into conflict with local communities, thereby jeopardizing well-intended conservation actions. This has been termed 'flagship mutiny' and is exemplified by the Asian elephant in countries where there is human-elephant conflict.[8]

Other types of conservation flagships

Conservation flagships can also appear at broader levels, for example as ecosystems (such as coral reefs or rainforests or protected areas (Serengeti or Yellowstone).[2] A number of recent initiatives has developed new conservation flagships based on conservation values of particular areas or species. Examples of these are the EDGE project run by the Zoological Society of London and the Hotspots run by Conservation International.[2]

See also


  1. 1 2 Ducarme, Frédéric; Luque, Gloria M.; Courchamp, Franck (2013). "What are "charismatic species" for conservation biologists ?" (PDF). BioSciences Master Reviews. 1. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Veríssimo, D., D. C. MacMillan, and R. J. Smith. 2011. Toward a systematic approach for identifying conservation flagships. Conservation Letters 4:1-8.
  3. Walpole, M.J., Leader-Williams N. (2002) Tourism and flagship species in conservation. Biodiversity Conservation 11, 543–547.(Walpole & Leader-Williams 2002)
  4. Heywood, V.H. (1995) Global biodiversity assessment. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  5. Barua, M. 2011. Mobilizing metaphors: the popular use of keystone, flagship and umbrella species concepts. Biodiversity and Conservation, 20: 1427-1440.
  6. 1 2 Foissner, W. 2005. Two new "flagship" ciliates (Protozoa, Ciliophora) from Venezuela: Sleighophrys pustulata and Luporinophrys micelae. European Journal of Protistology, 41, 99-117.
  7. Foissner, W.; Stoeck, T. (2006), "Rigidothrix goiseri nov gen., nov spec. (Rigidotrichidae nov fam.), a new "flagship" ciliate from the Niger floodplain breaks the flexibility-dogma in the classification of stichotrichine spirotrichs (Ciliophora, Spirotrichea)", European Journal of Protistology, 42: 249–267, doi:10.1016/j.ejop.2006.07.003
  8. 1 2 3 Barua, M., J. Tamuly, and R.A.Ahmed. 2010. Mutiny or clear sailing: examining the role of the Asian elephant as a flagship species. Human Dimensions of Wildlife 15(2):145-160.
  9. Veríssimo, D., D. C. MacMillan, and R. J. Smith. 2011. Marketing diversity: a response to Joseph and colleagues. Conservation Letters 4:326-327.
  10. 1 2 3 Barua, M., M. Root-Bernstein, R.J. Ladle and P. Jepson. 2010. Defining flagship uses is critical for flagship selection: a critique of the IUCN climate change flagship fleet. Ambio, 40: 431-435.
  11. Frazier, J. 2005. Marine turtles: the role of flagship species in interactions between people and the Sea MAST, 3(2) and 4(1),5–38
  12. Mittermeier, R. 1988. Primate diversity and the tropical forest. Pages 145-154 in E. O. Wilson, editor. Biodiversity. National Academy Press. , Washington, DC.
  13. Mittermeier, R. A. 1986. Primate conservation priorities in the Neotropical region. Pages 221-240 in K. Benirschke, editor. Primates: The road to self-sustaining populations. . Springer- Verlag, New York
  14. 1 2 Leader-Williams, N., and H. T. Dublin. 2000. Charismatic megafauna as ‘flagship species’. Pages 53–81 in A. Entwistle, and N. Dunstone, editors. Priorities for the Conservation of Mammalian Diversity: Has the Panda Had Its Day. Cambridge University Press
  15. 1 2 Veríssimo, D., I. Fraser, R. Bristol., J. Groombridge, and D. MacMillan. 2009. Birds as tourism flagship species: A Case Study on Tropical Islands. Animal Conservation 12:549-558.
  16. Guiney, M.S., Oberhauser K.S. (2008) Insects as flagship conservation species. Terr Arthropod Rev 1, 111–123.
  17. Bowen-Jones E., Entwistle A. (2002) Identifying appropriate flagship species: the importance of culture and local contexts. Oryx 36, 189-195.
  18. 1 2 3 Simberloff D. (1998) Flagships, umbrellas, and keystones: Is single-species management passe in the landscape era? Biological Conservation 83, 247-257.

Further reading

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 8/1/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.