Big animals that people like. When environmentalists talk about conservation, one of their complaints is that it's a lot easier to get people to do something to save animals like the elephant, panda or tiger than to convince them that the fate of the Visayan warty pig or the Hell Creek crayfish is worth caring about, regardless of the relative worth of the animals to their ecosystems.

Celebrities of the animal kingdom, usually mammals, easily identified by virtue of their size or position at the top of the food chain. Cute animals (furry, large eyes) also qualify. These poster species, while not necessarily vital to biodiversity, serve the fundraising and marketing arms of conservation groups working to protect the microfauna (by mass, 90-95 percent of animal life on earth) that are the keystones of local ecosystems.

The overused term "charismatic megavertebrate" means exactly that: large vertebrates which are cute, beautiful, or culturally significant, and hence popular with the lay public. These animals draw huge crowds to see them in zoos and fuel much of eco-tourism. In their natural habitat, when they are threatened by poaching, pollution, or habitat destruction, huge effort and heartfelt emotion is often expended in their defense. The flipside of this phenomenon is the plight of ugly and small species, whose extinction can pass nearly unnoticed. Of course, most of the factors that threaten charismatic megavertebrates also threaten the other species which which they share their ecosystems, so the resulting conservation efforts do have trickle down effects on more species than just their intended beneficiaries.

Some example species:

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