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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

Some Animals Garner Lion’s Share of Conservation Donations

Imaginary animal designed by Rory McCan

Rory McCann

Sarah Papworth, a conservation biologist at the University of London, and artist Rory McCann designed a menagerie of imaginary beasts to find out which animals people were most willing to support. “Donations are really key to a lot of institutions,” says Diogo Veríssimo, a conservation biologist with the nonprofit San Diego Zoo Global. “Without them, many of the largest conservation organizations would struggle to survive.” It is common knowledge that people favor those they find adorable—tigers over turtles, for instance—but no one knows exactly which physical and nonphysical features motivate donors. From all the different body shapes, sizes, colors, eye positions and furriness, hundreds of past conservation donors ranked the imaginary species. Animals that were larger and more colorful were most likely to solicit donations, as reported in Conservation Letters. But it turns out that cuteness is not the only thing that matters, because the formula doesn’t account for the impact of popular culture. A study in Poland found that proboscis monkeys, once labeled the world’s ugliest primate, received a surge in donations through crowdfunding after starring in popular memes poking fun at their appearance. Maybe there really is no such thing as bad publicity.