Flagships or Battleships

Deconstructing the Relationship between Social Conflict and Conservation Flagship Species

in Environment and Society
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  • 1 University of the West Indies lrd2107@caa.columbia.edu
  • 2 University of Kent dv38@kent.ac.uk
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Flagship species, common components of conservation programs, are frequently implicated in social conflicts. This article examines the multiple roles of flagships in conflicts including their part in human-wildlife conflicts and as symbols of broader sociopolitical disputes. The article shows that the relationship between the co-occurrence of conflict and flagship species, while complex, illuminates important patterns and lessons that require further attention. The article focuses on the most iconic flagships globally and discusses why they are commonly shrouded in controversy in which their meaning, value, and place are contested. It argues that the process of socially constructing animals as iconic symbols often entangles them in conflict, and saturates them with conflict agency. The article recommends that any program that involves the deployment of flagships should institutionalize analyses of their symbolic meaning as an essential conflict-management approach.

Environment and Society

Advances in Research


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