• Construction of Charisma in Conservation

    Photo: Part of the painting Boschbrand (Forest Fire), 1849

    Artist: Raden Saleh. On display at National Gallery, Singapore.

    Overview

    Charismatic megafauna is a term that has generally been used to refer to animals that have a broad-based popular appeal to humans and consequently often used as the face of environmentalist campaigns. They are usually large mammals (eg. giant panda and Bengal tiger), living in biodiverse areas; protecting these species often means providing an umbrella-like protecting to other species as well.

     

    This project seeks to probe into the concept of charisma in animals historically, not taking it as an intrinsic quality but as a constructed one. Focusing on several case studies from Southeast Asia - the saltwater crocodile, the Asian elephant, the Philippine eagle, the Sumatran tiger, river otters and the house lizard, it asks what makes a particular animal appealing and how does this change over time? Of particular interest are the metrics of such constructions and their religious significance.

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