Phoenix flagships: Conservation values and guanaco reintroduction in an anthropogenic landscape
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- Lindon, A. & Root-Bernstein, M. Ambio (2015) 44: 458. doi:10.1007/s13280-014-0608-6
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Multiple forms of valuation contribute to public acceptance of conservation projects. Here, we consider how esthetic, intrinsic, and utilitarian values contribute to public attitudes toward a proposed reintroduction of guanaco (Lama guanicoe) in a silvopastoral system of central Chile. The nexus among landscape perceptions and valuations, support for reintroductions, and management of anthropogenic habitats is of increasing interest due to the proliferation of conservation approaches combining some or all of these elements, including rewilding and reconciliation ecology, for example. We assessed attitudes and values through an online questionnaire for residents of Santiago, Chile, using multiple methods including photo-montages and Likert scale assessments of value-based statements. We also combined the questionnaire approach with key informant interviews. We find strong support for the reintroduction of guanacos into the Chilean silvopastoral system (‘espinal’) in terms of esthetic and intrinsic values but less in terms of utilitarian values. Respondents preferred a scenario of espinal with guanacos and expressed interest in visiting it, as well as support for the reintroduction project on the basis that guanacos are native to central Chile. We suggest that reintroduced guanacos could serve as a ‘phoenix flagship species’ for espinal conservation, that is, a flagship species that has gone regionally extinct and is known but not associated with the region in the cultural memory. We consider how the lack of local cultural identity can both help and weaken phoenix flagships, which we expect to become more common.