Wildlife expert Chris Packham once caused a stir by suggesting that conservation efforts should focus on protecting habitats of all wildlife, rather than focusing on "famous" animals.

The BBC presenter asked if efforts to preserve "t-shirt animals" were harming wider conservation efforts.

A recent study suggested many people are unaware that animals they consider as "charismatic" are actually under threat in the wild.

Does the huge media interest in such species as the curlew or the corncrake harm conservation work with other species?

Some campaigners believe so, but others involved in conservation say that resources, including money, given to help well-known animals benefit all wildlife.

John Leech, of the Irish Red Grouse Association, is based in south Galway, the site of the bird's largest population in Ireland.

He described conservation efforts aimed at the corncrake in particular as a "farce".

"The waste of money was ridiculous. Over-focus on some species… is driven by academia," he said, pointing out that there have not been as many useful studies on the red grouse.There used to be many more red grouse in Ireland, but numbers dropped in the late 20th century - partly due to the loss and fragmentation of bogland - and consequently the heather on which the birds feed.

PhD papers and studies give the media something to report on, feeding the public with a "one-sided, one dimensional" view, said Mr Leech.

But the many reports on the curlew and the corncrake are not saving the birds, he added.

Controlling predators is vital, he argued, as conservation work is useless otherwise. He argued putting up fencing on the flat lands surrounding the River Shannon to protect corncrakes was "insanity" as there was no parallel control of crows and magpies which eat the corncrakes' chicks.

corncrake

Claire Barnett, a senior conservation officer with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in Northern Ireland, believes the curlew's media profile helps other less well-known species.

She said that like the corncrake, the curlew's ability to attract funding is vital to the charity.

"The work that we do for those particular species, kind of like our showcase, popular species, helps lots of other species that are less popular with the public.

Dr Anita Donaghy of BirdWatch Ireland, an independent conservation organisation, rejected any suggestion that the increased focus on the curlew and corncrake are down to their supposed celebrity status.

Conservationists focus on them "because they are on the verge of extinction", she said.

The legal status of the corncrake derives from its inclusion on Annex 1 of the European Union's Birds Directive.

The curlew is not included on Annex 1 because its numbers were healthier when the list was drawn up.

Dr Donaghy said the curlew is a "red-listed species" in the Republic of Ireland.

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