Beyond the “General Public”: Implications of Audience Characteristics for Promoting Species Conservation in the Western Ghats Hotspot, India
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Understanding how different audience groups perceive wildlife is crucial for the promotion of biodiversity conservation, especially given the key role of flagship species in conservation campaigns. Although the heterogeneity in preferences reinforces the need for campaigns tailored to specific target audiences, many conservation education and awareness campaigns still claim to target the “general public”. Audiences can be segmented according to social, economic, and cultural criteria across which species perceptions are known to vary. Different studies have investigated the preferences of different groups towards certain wildlife species, but these are largely confined to a single conservation stakeholder group, such as tourists, local communities, or potential donors in western countries. In this study, we seek to determine from a multi-stakeholder perspective, audience characteristics that influence perceptions towards wildlife at Valparai, a fragmented plateau in the Western Ghats region of the Western Ghats-Sri Lanka Hotspot. We found that stakeholder group membership was the most important characteristic followed by gender. While some characteristics had a wide-scale effect others were restricted to a few species. Our results emphasize the need to design conservation campaigns with specific audiences in mind, instead of the very often referred to “general public”.
KeywordsCommunity-based conservation Flagship species India Stakeholder Species perceptions Valparai
The first author would like to thank S. Kumar, T. Augustine, P.A. Kanagavel, and Vijayalakshmi for assisting in field logistics and data collection. Discussions with S.M. Saaduddin and T. Immanuel and those with M.M. Pillai, A. Nair, S. Deborah, S. Philip, and P. Balaji helped develop the sections on religion and geographical origin, respectively, towards which the first author is thoroughly grateful. The authors are also grateful to S. Joseph of CRG & ATREE for providing GIS layers, which were created with support from the Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation (RSG 30.08.09). Thanks are due to C. Lawson, L. Cugnière, H. Newing and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on the draft manuscript. The study was financially supported by the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), University of Kent and North of England Zoological Society (NEZS) Chester Zoo Studentships 2010.
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