Yohaan P. Sharma 1537214 – Why Conservationists Should Heed Pokemon

Balmford, A. “Why Conservationists Should Heed Pokemon.” Science 295.5564 (2002): 2367. Web.

Balmford et. al builds their article on the premise that humans possess an “innate desire to catalog, understand and spend time with other life-forms”. Deriving this from E. O. Wilson’s Biophilia hypothesis, the writers of the article believe that this hypothesis provides for a basis to build an argument to protect endangered animals but they also state that due to industrialization and urbanization, the human interest that formerly resided with other life-forms are slowly, but steadily shifting, to a more man-made paradigm.

This redirection to human artifacts, that occur outside of the control of the natural world, holds, what they feel, are “potentially grave consequences for biodiversity conservation”. To substantiate their point, they quote Robert Pyle in saying “what is the extinction of the condor to a child who has never seen a wren?”

Delving now into their study, Balmford et. al aim to test children’s awareness of wild life by providing them with pictures and asking for an identification. In the mix of these cards, they also inserted 10 Pokemon playing cards in order to see if the children could name the Pokemon as well.

The research team surveyed 109 UK children aged between 4 to 11. Each child was given 20 cards; 10 cards depicting actual wildlife and 10 depicting Pokemon. Their findings indicate that all the children within the given age group were able to identify between 30% and 50% of wildlife whereas the same group varied quite drastically for Pokemon. The younger children (aged 6 and below) scored between 10% and 50% but all the children in the older category could identify at least 70% of the Pokemon cards probably due to the fact that the younger children may not have been exposed to Pokemon in the cartoon or trading card form.

However, the fact that the same group of children knew one and half times the Pokemon than they did actual wildlife seems to point to Blamford et. al’s hypothesis as true.

What this means to my research is that Pokemon acts as a tool for education because children are able to remember these characters and identify with them as well. This adds to them immersing themselves into the world of Pokemon where they interact with wildlife but a fictional wildlife.  Balmford et. al defend that the data that they uncovered should serve as proof that conservationists need to reestablish a connection between nature and children and build that link in order to “win over their hearts and minds” and, in turn, better the situation of endangered species.


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