The management of the introduced grey squirrel seen through the eyes of the media

Abstract

Communication plans are fundamental for the success of conservation programs, especially when dealing with alien species. In a media-saturated society the effectiveness of communication could be evaluated through the information reported by the media, as an indicator of public attitudes towards a particular issue. We evaluated the effectiveness of a communication campaign by analysing the perception of the media towards management activities to control grey squirrel populations. A media content analysis was performed to classify the news in categories regarding their attitude towards the project. A total of 166 articles were analysed, which corresponds to a mean of one article every 9 days along the 4-years project. News followed peaks of interest in specific periods, generally related with milestones of the project. Half of the negative news regarded management activities in an urban area, despite the softer management approach adopted, with surgical sterilization of animals instead of their euthanasia after live-trapping. A reinforcement of the communication focused in Liguria inverted the trend of negative news which decreased over time, indicating the effectiveness of communication activities. Public support is fundamental for the successful implementation of eradication and control plans. Considering the role of media in informing and driving public opinion, media monitoring is routinely included in the development of management projects. We suggest that a media content analysis can be used as a performance indicator to evaluate the communication effectiveness of conservation projects, helping to identify negative trends so to proactively react.

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Acknowledgements

This work was realized under the LIFE09 NAT/IT/000095 EC-SQUARE project. This is paper no. 16 of the EC-SQUARE project. Jacopo Cerri and an anonymous referee provided useful suggestions to early drafts of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Sandro Bertolino.

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Lioy, S., Marsan, A., Balduzzi, A. et al. The management of the introduced grey squirrel seen through the eyes of the media. Biol Invasions 21, 3723–3733 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-019-02084-9

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Keywords

  • Alien species
  • Control plan
  • Eradication
  • Media content analysis
  • Public attitude