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Some conservationists have called into question how it is that endangered species earmarked for assistance are selected. Given that 20 thousand species are currently considered endangered, not every one of them can realistically be saved. Some, however, have called into question how it is that those earmarked for assistance were selected. At present, determining which plants and animals get a helping hand is primarily done in a couple ways.Sometimes the decision involves scientists running the numbers and seeing which of the thousands of candidates would likely offer the most successful and beneficial results. More often it’s an exercise in picking favorites. As those that win popularity contests are typically either of the furry and adorable variety or those that offer an economic upside, many conservationists feel its time to adopt more scientifically based criteria. Repopulation efforts, they say, should be determined by how much a species contributes to the function of the planet as a whole. Specifically cited in the argument for change are ants, which provide many essential environmental functions like aerating soil and spreading plant life by carrying seeds to new growing areas. Said one ethologist, "If we're going to save pandas rather than ants, we need a good reason, and being cute is not a good reason."