National Geographic : 2018 Aug
PROOF THE BACKSTORY TO SAVE RARE SPECIES FROM EXTINCTION, WE NEED TO BUILD EMOTIONAL BONDS WITH THE NATURAL WORLD. CONSIDER THE SHOEBILL, whose photo opens this article. It’s a one-of-a -kind species on the verge of extinction— exactly the type targeted for protec- tion by the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered species program, aka EDGE of Existence. But when I started the EDGE initiative in 2007, the challenge was getting people who’d never heard of those animals to commit to protecting them. Ideally I could have gone to the leading marketing agency for nature and asked what to do to get people to emotionally connect with these weird and wonderful creatures. But no such agency exists—and we’ve only begun to develop both the art and science of making this vital connection. Tim Flach photographed the birds in this article; all are in his book Endangered, to which I contributed. Flach has a unique ability to capture an animal’s essence and an affinity for unusual, obscure creatures. We saw the book as a great opportunity to explore which images of species and habitats would elicit an emotional response. Were people connecting to species that were larger? More colorful? Or that had traits similar to human babies’, such as big eyes? Was it more powerful if species were pictured in portrait style or in their native habitat? Did the viewer connect through seemingly shared emotions or behaviors, such as mater- nal gestures, fear, and vulnerability? Flach’s images have helped start the discussion. Now we at National Geo- graphic, through our Making the Case for Nature grants program, are inviting experts to offer ideas about how to bet- ter connect humans with the natural world. It’s a critical question; our future depends on it. —JONATHAN BAILLIE Invasive species Hunting and trapping Agriculture and aquaculture Logging Industry and urbanization Geological events Climate change and severe weather Pollution Other LEADING RISKS FOR THREATENED BIRD SPECIES* 0% 25% 50% of species affected (Includes human disturbances, mining, fires) *INCLUDES BIRDS LISTED AS CRITICALLY ENDANGERED, ENDANGERED, OR VULNERABLE ON THE IUCN RED LIST; STATUS AS OF 2017 DAISY CHUNG, NGM STAFF. SOURCE: BIRDLIFE INTERNATIONAL Human actions are driving the decline of threatened bird species Most of the forces threatening bird populations are at least in part generated by humans. Currently, expanding agriculture and aquaculture pose the greatest risks; in the future the leading risk factor for many birds may be climate change. At the National Geographic Society, Jonathan Baillie is chief scientist and executive vice president of science and exploration.