Cultural Aspects of Wildlife Conservation

Contributed Paper
ROOM: Room 220 – Ruidoso

10:30AM Changing “Cat-Titudes”: The Effects of Messaging When Advocating Feral Cat Colony Control
Maureen R. McClung; Lindsay A. Kennedy; Jessica Bonumwezi; Brynn Davis; Regan Hatwig; Kevin J. Kracjir; Chris Wakim
Feral cats are known to be significant predators of small mammals, reptiles, and birds, and so their management is a conservation concern. Recently, trap-neuter-release (TNR) programs have been promoted by cat-advocates, and others, as a method of management that can slow the population growth of feral cat colonies. However, sterilized individuals remain in the environment, and thus can still impact native populations of wildlife. There are others who would promote euthanasia as a more responsible approach when protecting wildlife is a priority. Euthanasia, however, is controversial and this management approach often faces resistance from the public. Our study examined the attitudes of the general public regarding the use of TNR versus euthanasia to manage feral cat colonies. We administered an online survey using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (mTurk) in which we asked questions about perceptions of the risks that feral cats pose to: the feral cats themselves, people (public health), and the natural environment (including wildlife). We also asked questions about attitudes toward TNR and euthanasia, as well as general attitudes toward the environment. Based on 303 responses, we found that perceived risk to feral cats was positively correlated with support of TNR (r=0.237, p<0.001), but not support of euthanasia (r=-0.022, p=0.705). Perceived risk to people was negatively correlated with support of TNR (r=-0.173, p=0.003), and positively correlated with support of euthanasia (r=0.468, p<0.001). Finally, environmental attitudes were positively correlated with support of TNR approaches (r=0.245, p<0.001), but not support of euthanasia (r=0.68, p=0.24). These data suggest that invoking the environmental argument (i.e. protecting wildlife) to justify euthanasia might not be as effective as focusing on the risk factors for public health. We recommend that education highlight the potential negative impacts of feral cat colonies on public health to promote euthanasia as a means of colony control.
10:50AM On the Dependence of Tribal Livelihoods on Coastal Mangrove Forests in Andhra Pradesh, India
Santosh Edupuganti; Appa Rao Allaparthi; Pradeep K. Narsupalli; Ashwin Naidu
In coastal Andhra Pradesh, India, alongside vulnerable wildlife species like the fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) and the smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata), many local and tribal communities depend on mangrove forests for their livelihoods and survival. Among these are the Chenchu, Palli, and Yanadi tribes. During 2015-2016, as part of a community-based conservation program led by the Fishing Cat Conservancy, we interacted with and informally interviewed at least 24 local and tribal people from eight human settlements among coastal mangroves. We recorded information on their lifestyles and learned about their traditional ecological knowledge. From our observations, we infer that the Palli and Yanadi, who survive solely on their traditional methods of fishing and crab collecting, are probably among the most vulnerable to the loss of mangroves. The Chenchu survive on both fishing and small game/bird hunting and are a more widespread tribe. On a common ground, all three tribes use mangroves for wood to fuel their cooking and to build and fence their huts. Mangroves have also protected these tribes from cyclones, like the 1996 Andhra Pradesh cyclone, and tsunamis, like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. However, the spread of aquaculture over the last half-century has led to a significant loss in mangrove forest cover endangering the traditional lifestyles and livelihoods of these tribal communities in several areas. Apart from the implications of a further loss of mangrove cover, we discuss the potential for mangrove restoration, education, and alternate sources of livelihood for these tribal communities.
11:10AM Cultural Aspects of Wildlife Conservation in Ancient India
Objective: To analyse ancient Indian approach to wildlife protection. Methods: Analytical, Empirical, Qualitative Results, conclusions: Rise in wildlife population due to attitudinal change among tribals in Gujarat  India is a land of Lord Gautam Buddha, Lord Mahavir and Mahatma Gandhi, the leaders who have advocated non-violence and respect to the living organisms. Unlike other countries, especially the developed world, wildlife conservation is deep rooted in the Indian culture. Our mythology, ancient art, literature, folk lore, religion, the rock edicts and scriptures, all provide ample proof that wildlife enjoyed a privileged position in India’s ancient past – Kautilya’s Arthashastra reveals the attention focused on wildlife in the Mauryan period: certain forests were declared protected and called Abhayaranya like the present day ‘sanctuary’. Heavy penalties, including capital punishment, were prescribed for offenders who entrapped, killed or otherwise molested elephants, deer, bison, birds, or fish, amongst other animals. Currently, all is not well in the conservation field. Present Indian society has global interaction. The world of consumerism has influenced the new generation. A different kind of war, waged between conservation and development, and between the forest and the tribals is already being fought. It is weakening our basis of sustainable development; there is a need to counter the forces responsible for loss of nature and natural resources by creating awakening in the society. Despite these problems, there is small positive change in certain areas where wildlife disappeared or got depleted. Within tribal society, there has been change in attitude of people.
11:30AM Reintroducing the Vicuña to Ecuador: Symbols, Values, and the Politics of Conservation
Brian E. McLaren; Andrea Garrido; Bacilio Pomaina; Luis Alberto Tuaza
Reintroduction of vicuñas (Vicugna vicugna) to Ecuador, unlike other parts of their range, embodies ironies related to the human dimension, which we explored via document review and personal interviews. First, vicuñas are likely not native to Ecuador, where altiplano is non-existent and habitat is restricted to the foothills of a few volcanoes. Glacial activity and related disturbances kept the Ecuadorian Andes free of larger mammals, including people, until the last few thousand years, when settlers arrived from coastal and Amazon regions to assist east-west trade. Centuries later, northern Incan military outposts were established in Ecuador, likely bringing with the soldiers the first vicuñas, llamas and alpacas, animals that were part of economic and cultural traditions much further south. Archeological evidence tracking their arrival, combined with pressure to recover more-than-decimated populations of vicuñas in the mid-20th century, convinced the Ecuador ministry of forests, protected areas and wildlife to receive in 1988 and 1993 seed populations from Peru, Bolivia and Chile, and to reintroduce vicuñas in a newly created Chimborazo Faunal Production Reserve. Second, people indigenous to this area were consulted on the government’s plan to a very limited extent, and told of unclear economic benefits that, after 30 years, have still not been realized. Instead, increase of the vicuña population has left many residents of Chimborazo’s foothills in conflict from overuse of common pasture and crop damage. In a third ironic turn, residents view a few local beneficiaries in the tourism sector as opportunists similar to those who benefited from initiatives of the mestizo and church-led Agrarian reforms of the 20th century. Government conservation initiatives, and the vicuña as an embedded symbol, would have better garnered grassroots support, rather than have been seen as part of perpetuating a paternalism and an imposed culture that indigenous people increasingly try to shake.
11:50AM Essential Elements Required for Working with American Indians
Jonathan H. Gilbert
American Indian tribes are responsible for millions of acres of land in the US both on and off their reservations. Many professional biologists will work either with or for these tribes during their career. Thus, it is important to understand the ways in which successful relationships can be built. Based on 30 years of experience working with Ojibwe Tribes, I have identified six essential elements required to build these relationships; communication, flexibility, empathy, respect, time and humor. Communication is the easiest of these, but the scope often underestimated. Flexibility is sometimes difficult with a scientific method paradigm. Empathy and respect for the culture are related elements but require a commitment to learn the culture and knowledge to distinguish between the two elements. Time is the most difficult because of the effort required and the tendency to misunderstand spatial versus chronological perceptions. Finally, humor is a device that can be used to transcend the other five elements. These six elements will be described using experiences from my career.


Contributed Paper
Location: Albuquerque Convention Center Date: September 27, 2017 Time: 10:30 am - 12:10 pm