Charisma counts

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  Although Americans want a balanced and healthy ecosystem and favor the right of all species to exist, turtles and otters are valued above rodents and insects. Donald Coursey, public policy specialist at the University of Chicago, says his national survey "showed a difference between the public's walk and their talk." Conducted last fall, the survey listed 247 land-based animals that are endangered or threatened, and asked respondents about the importance of saving them. Bald eagles, whooping cranes and grizzly bears topped the list, while rats, bats, beetles and mussels fell to the bottom. These biases mirror federal spending for animal recovery, says Coursey. Nearly $5 million is spent to recover a single Florida panther and nearly $1.5 million on a California condor, while many smaller, less charismatic species, such as Tipton kangaroo rats or Tooth Cave spiders, get little or no money. Coursey wants future research look at the psychological reasons for the preference of certain species. Donald Coursey can be reached at the Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago, 1155 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637 (312/702-2288).