Wildlife tourism provides an opportunity to offset conservation costs and promote co-existence between people and wildlife. To promote conservation through wildlife tourism, one can use flagship species; charismatic species that increase awareness and public recognition of a site, and stimulate financial and political support for conservation. Due to their large area requirements and sensitivity to disturbance, promoting conservation of large carnivores automatically promotes conservation of other species, and the use of large carnivores as flagship species has been positively related to ecosystem conservation. In this study, we interviewed wildlife tourists to determine which large carnivores could serve as flagship species for the Zimbabwe component of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA), an area that is expected to become a premier tourist destination and make a significant contribution to conservation. Based on likability and the possibility to raise funds and promote the area, lion (Panthera leo) was the most suitable flagship species, closely followed by leopard (Panthera pardus). Spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) was the least suitable flagship species. Despite its endangered status, African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) did not seem to have a high potential to serve as a flagship species for the area. Although cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) was less often mentioned as a species tourists were hoping to see or a favourite species seen, cheetah was liked as much as lion and leopard and provided similar potential to raise funds and promote the area. Flagship species status does not have to apply to a single species, it can also successfully apply to a cohort of species. With the KAZA TFCA being in the unique position of harbouring the largest free-roaming cheetah population in Zimbabwe, it would be appropriate if the area was promoted by using large cats as a flagship species cohort.
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