If you follow the academic and NGO conversations about conservation and conservation biology, you may have come across the term charismatic mega-fauna. These are the animals most people are excited to see at the zoo (tigers, elephants, panda, polar bears, California condors, etc). The animals that grab your attention and make you care (and inspire you to donate to conservation). They have long been focus of conservation efforts because, in a basic sense, keeping enough habitat to support these crowd-pleasing animals also allows for the conservation of many other organisms in the ecosystems. This can be a successful conservation strategy.
BUT these animals are hard to find outside the zoo. Even a biologist specializing in tigers doesn’t see them that often (mostly what they look at is tiger poop). Most of the environmental education for the general public happens far away from pandas and elephants. There are, however, a ton of very exciting, if smaller, animals around us all the time. Insects in particular can be found almost any time you walk outside (or really look around your house). Without losing any love for the magastic, and important, mega-fauna, I think that we need to start cultivating these accessible little animals as everyday environmental ambassadors.
Over the past several years, as I’ve been working on environmental education and entomology outreach with people from 5-60 years old, I’ve been actively employing the idea of charismatic micro-fauna. The iconic and easily recognizable lady beetles are a prime candidate. The beautiful and colorful butterflies also play this role. There are, however, so many more exciting insects hiding all around you.
Taking pictures of the charismatic micro-fauna is one of my favorite ways to get people interested in the diversity all around them. There’s so much to see if you look closely!
Highlighting the small wonders is the motivation behind this blog. I hope you learn to enjoy them as much as I do!