Date: October 31, 2016
Source: Cornell University
If you want people to care about endangered species, focus on how many animals are left, not on the chances of a species becoming extinct, according to a new study by Cornell University communication scholars.
Since the 1960s, conservation experts have used specific labels to indicate how precariously a species is teetering on the brink of extinction. Categories like "critically endangered," "endangered" and "vulnerable" are meant to communicate how much risk animals face.
Conservation biologists use statistics about a species' population and the territory it inhabits to figure out which category it belongs in.
But researchers found that what scientists think those numbers say about a species' risk of extinction, and how the public perceives that risk, can be strikingly different.
"Although experts view these statistics as equal, the public does not. This research shows the numbers experts use don't necessarily register the same level of risk in the public's mind," said Hwanseok Song, a doctoral candidate in the field of communication and author of the study.