Survival of the Cutest for Endangered Species

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

People celebrate a panda's 100-day birth celebration at Chimelong Safari Park on November 7, 2013 in Guangzhou, China. People celebrate a panda's 100-day birth celebration at Chimelong Safari Park on November 7, 2013 in Guangzhou, China. (ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

There are all too many endangered species in the wild and precious little money devoted to conservation. So if you had to choose, how would you do it?

We concocted a thoroughly unscientific survey: A choice between saving the beloved giant panda, the odd-looking grey-faced elephant shrew, and the insectoid American burying beetle. 

Most people chose the panda. Along with apes, elephants, big cats, and black rhinoceros, pandas are some of the biggest fundraisers in the animal kingdom. What makes us want to save pandas, but not bugs? Not surprisingly, it turns out that animals deemed cute yield bigger donations and campaigns.

This week, is exploring our ideas of conservation in a series called “Last of the Last.” Christine Dell’Amore, news editor for, helps explain how we choose which animals to save.


Christine Dell'Amore and T.J. Raphael

Produced by:

Alex Kapelman

Comments [3]

James Held from NYC

True the concern over whales, elephants and wolves is justified, but the public ignores the fact that modern agri-business and its industrial practices are condemning hundreds of species of domestic plants and animals to extinction! Up until a few years ago Delicious, Macs and Granny Smith's were among the few apples found in supermarkets when hundreds of other varieties exist. White leghorn chickens, broad-breasted white turkeys--which can't even mate naturally--Hampshire pigs and Holstein cows constitute 90% plus of domestic animals not because of flavor but because they conform to industrial production at the expense of bio-diversity. Only massive doses of antibiotics keep them alive, and even their manure is too contaminated for use as fertilizer! Let's support the survival of Polish Crested chickens, Bershire pigs, Jersey cattle, Bourban Red turkeys and other breeds as well as the farmers who buck the industrial trends to raise them! These animals are beautiful and delicious!

Dec. 19 2013 07:43 AM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Pandas need to be used like supermodels in a fashion magazine.

Dec. 18 2013 02:19 PM
david dicks from Seattle

It is important to note that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) does not distinguish between species base on their cuteness or popularity. The 1973 ESA protects all threatened and endangered species equally. The Snail Darter controversy mentioned in the story was the first major case before the US Supreme Court interpreting the ESA and the Court ruled that the Snail Darter has the same "rights" as a Panda Bear or a Tiger.

Second, protecting species by focusing on protecting their habitat is not a new strategy. It is in fact the basis of almost all recovery and protection strategies in the US and around the globe.

Thank you,

David Dicks - Environmental Lawyer

Dec. 18 2013 01:12 PM

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