Diva species: flagships that sink the fleet

Take any introductory class in conservation biology and you are bound to learn about umbrella species and flagship species; two of the main tools in the conservationist’s toolbox. Umbrella species occur when the conservation of one species (the umbrella) leads indirectly to the conservation of other species, usually because the umbrella species needs a lot of space. Flagship species are those that have particular resonance with an important conservation audience, such as donors, tourists or local people, allowing the flagship to generate resources and support that can be used to conserve many other species.

So far, so much like a conservation biology textbook. But are things always this simple? A lot has been written on these concepts and their practice, and I don’t make any claim to be familiar with it all. But I do have some first-hand experience of a situation in which the flagships and umbrellas began to look like they might get pretty leaky. Continue reading