Flagship species are some of the most important species in kingdom Animalia. In conservation biology, these important species are selected to raise support for biodiversity conservation. The flagship species differ from place to place and country to country. The species chosen as flagship are usually charismatic ones. Most of these animal species are well-known and have caught a lot of interest throughout the world, even if they are found only in one particular region. The Bengal tiger, e.g., is one such flagship species even though it is found only in certain regions of India. Some flagship species are iconic species of the whole group; e.g., the polar bear is the most iconic breed of bears. The categories of flagship species are international flagship species, cultural flagship species and ecological flagship species. We shall discuss each of them and study flagship species examples in detail.
International flagship species: These species are recognised globally; e.g. Bengal tiger is found exclusively in India but is known and globally.
Cultural flagship species: These flagship species portray a specific culture or people; e.g., the Bornean ironwood (Eusideroxylon zwageri) symbolises Dayak people. The plant is used for some tribal rituals and medicinal purposes in the Dayak tribe.
Ecological Flagship species: These species represent unique diversity; e.g. the snow leopard is an ecological as well as cultural flagship species of the Tibetan plateau.
The flagship species are defined as animals that are on the verge of extinction, and in order to avoid their complete extinction, the awareness amongst people has to be raised. Most flagship species are iconic or very charismatic like the Bengal tiger, rhinoceros, Asian elephant etc.; however, some flagships species are given their place with the help of marketing and iconisation of the species; the animals are, therefore, made iconic of the culture, nation etc. They are used as symbols of certain organisations; the marketing thus followed helps in public awareness and gain attention to the species and raise either monetary contribution or support for the species. These species can be kept in the sanctuary and; people can then be allowed entry with tickets and the raised funds can be used in the conservation efforts of the species. When there is considerable growth in the headcounts of the species, then it can be used in re-population in its natural habitat.
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The world is very dynamic in terms of biological events like evolution and the introduction of new species and the extinction of the old. It is estimated that more than 99% of all species have gone extinct already. All animals and plants form an important role in the ecosystem of the earth; some of them do have a prominent role in it.
There are various reasons for species to go extinct, some of the most important ones are climatic change, habitat degradation, loss of vital species breaking the whole food chain etc. Loss of a species is not only loss of valuable life but also some of the most vital resources or key aspects for the sustaining of the ecosystem.
Flagships species are animals that are on the verge of extinction. The only way to avoid their extinction is by raising public support for them. The support can be financial or in the form of public awareness. The acquired financial aid can help them in several ways; the extremely endangered species can be raised in captivity, and the funding can be used for experimentations, especially increasing their biodiversity.
Adequate public awareness can help people build morality against poaching of the endangered species. It can also help gain enough support from people to raise pressure on the biological departments and related organisations in the conservation of the species. The Asian elephant, Bengal tiger, giant panda and African elephant are some of the flagship species the most iconic of endangered species.
Question 1: Why conservation of the Flagship Species is important?
Answer: Flagship species are endangered beings. The dwindling number is a sign of their likelihood of extinction. If they are not preserved, then they can go extinct. Some of these species are vital for the ecology of the earth. With their extinction, the entire ecology is like to get imbalanced. If they are at the bottom of the food chain, then their extinction will break the whole chain leading to the mass-extinction of several species; e.g., if bees go extinct than in the absence of a pollinating agent, flowering and fruiting of plants will not be possible which will break the whole food chain and wreak havoc on the ecosystem. Even if a species does not have a prominent role in the ecosystem, then too, a loss of life may mean a loss of resources for our consumption. And, even if the species is not valuable in terms of its usefulness to human beings, then to it can lead to the loss of biodiversity. Therefore, the conservation of flagship species is important.
Question 2: What are the measures to tackle the effects of loss of Flagship Species?
Answer: Loss of a flagship species is a permanent loss of valuable life from the face of the earth. The loss can lead to a major breakdown of the food chain or other ecological imbalance. Spreading awareness of the endangered nature of the flagship species and their invaluable and indispensable contribution to nature is the most important step towards the conservation of the species. It can help reduce the instances of poaching; secondly, it can help in gaining support like financial contribution and other supportive actions toward the conservation efforts. The financial aid can be used in systematic raising and increasing the biodiversity of the species for its re-population.