The Most Charismatic Megafauna

Megafauna. Charismatic megafauna. What are they even? They are elephants and pandas and lots of other popular animals that people just love. These large animals are the poster children of environmental movements, put on posters and turned into adorable stuffed animals to gain public support for conservation and other environmental goals.

So, if you are wondering why you see giant pandas everywhere, it's because conservation groups were like, "Hmm, how can we get people all over the world to care about an ecosystem in China that is facing some peril?" The answer was cute pandas.

What are some popular charismatic megafauna? Well, think of just about any wild animal you are familiar with and have seen in the gift shop at your local zoo. Elephants, lions, sea turtles - the California condor even. They are all well-known species that were chosen to be the faces of various conservation campaigns and other endeavors.

Some of the animals on this list are endangered megafauna, while others are more ubiquitous, and some were maybe once on the brink of extinction, but thanks to their charisma, were saved! What a tale! Which charismatic megafauna species do you think look the most friendly? Are any of the animals on this list ones that you would love to chat with at a bar? Upvote the most charismatic of the megafauna creatures below, and go get yourself a stuffed red panda to cuddle until the end of time.
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  • 1
    101 VOTES
    Tiger
    Photo: thedigme / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0
    The tiger is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to 3.38 m over curves and weighing up to 388.7 kg in the wild. Its most recognisable feature is a pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with a lighter underside. The species is classified in the genus Panthera with the lion, leopard, jaguar and snow leopard. Tigers are apex predators, primarily preying on ungulates such as deer and bovids. They are territorial and generally solitary but social animals, often requiring large contiguous areas of habitat that support their prey requirements. This, coupled with the fact that they are indigenous to some of the more densely populated places on Earth, has ...more
  • 2
    82 VOTES

    Elephant

    Elephant
    Photo: mcoughlin / flickr / CC-BY-ND 2.0
    Elephants are mammals of the family Elephantidae and the largest existing land animals. Three species are currently recognised: the African bush elephant, the African forest elephant, and the Asian elephant. Elephantidae is the only surviving family of the order Proboscidea; extinct members include the mastodons. The family Elephantidae also contains several now-extinct groups, including the mammoths and straight-tusked elephants. African elephants have larger ears and concave backs, whereas Asian elephants have smaller ears, and convex or level backs. Distinctive features of all elephants include a long trunk, tusks, large ear flaps, massive legs, and tough but sensitive skin. The trunk, ...more
  • 3
    55 VOTES
    Orca
    Photo: Matthew_Allen / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0
    The killer whale or orca (Orcinus orca) is a toothed whale belonging to the oceanic dolphin family, of which it is the largest member. Killer whales have a diverse diet, although individual populations often specialize in particular types of prey. Some feed exclusively on fish, while others hunt marine mammals such as seals and other species of dolphin. They have been known to attack baleen whale calves, and even adult whales. Killer whales are apex predators, as no animal preys on them. A cosmopolitan species, they can be found in each of the world's oceans in a variety of marine environments, from Arctic and Antarctic regions to tropical seas, absent only from the Baltic and Black seas, ...more
  • 4
    69 VOTES

    Polar Bear

    Polar Bear
    Photo: Mark Dumont / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0
    The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is a hypercarnivorous bear whose native range lies largely within the Arctic Circle, encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. It is a large bear, approximately the same size as the omnivorous Kodiak bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi). A boar (adult male) weighs around 350–700 kg (772–1,543 lb), while a sow (adult female) is about half that size. Polar bears are the largest land carnivores currently in existence, rivaled only by the Kodiak bear. Although it is the sister species of the brown bear, it has evolved to occupy a narrower ecological niche, with many body characteristics adapted for cold temperatures, for moving ...more
  • 5
    67 VOTES
    Snow Leopard
    Photo: Cloudtail the Snow Leopard / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
    The snow leopard (Panthera uncia), also known as the ounce, is a large cat native to the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because the global population is estimated to number less than 10,000 mature individuals and decline about 10% until 2040. It is threatened by poaching and habitat destruction following infrastructural developments. It inhabits alpine and subalpine zones at elevations from 3,000 to 4,500 m (9,800 to 14,800 ft), ranging from eastern Afghanistan to Mongolia and western China. In the northern range countries, it also occurs at lower elevations.Taxonomically, the snow leopard was long classified in the monotypic genus ...more
  • 6
    48 VOTES
    Cheetah
    Photo: Mycatkins / flickr / CC-BY-ND 2.0
    The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus; ) is a large cat of the subfamily Felinae that occurs in North, Southern and East Africa, and a few localities in Iran. It inhabits a variety of mostly arid habitats like dry forests, scrub forests, and savannahs. The species is IUCN Red Listed as Vulnerable, as it suffered a substantial decline in its historic range in the 20th century due to habitat loss, poaching for the illegal pet trade, and conflict with humans. By 2016, the global cheetah population has been estimated at approximately 7,100 individuals in the wild. Several African countries have taken steps to improve cheetah conservation measures. The cheetah was formally described by Johann Christian ...more