Understanding the human dimensions of managing overabundant charismatic wildlife in Australia
Drijfhout, M and Kendal, D and Green, PT, Understanding the human dimensions of managing overabundant charismatic wildlife in Australia, Biological Conservation, 244 Article 108506. ISSN 0006-3207 (2020) [Refereed Article]
Management of charismatic, locally overabundant, wildlife such as koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) and kangaroos (Macropus spp.) has led to public outcry on multiple occasions. While this public opinion has been influencing decision-making, evidence on what the general public thinks to support this decision-making has been largely lacking. Here we quantified the opinions (n = 1,148) of a representative sample of the Australian public on the acceptability of a range of management options for managing overabundant populations of native koalas, kangaroos and the introduced feral horses (Equus caballus). Our survey also measured environmental value orientations (introducing a new ‘animalistic’ dimension to the widely used biospheric-altruistic-egoistic orientations scale) and beliefs about human- wildlife relationships to determine drivers of acceptability. Lastly, we examined the effect of providing ecological information on acceptability by randomly selecting half the koala respondents to receive additional information on the impacts of koala overabundance. We found significant differences in the acceptability of different management options within and across species. While the public understood the need for intervention, lethal control options such as culling were generally considered unacceptable in koalas, but acceptable in kangaroos. The acceptability of culling koalas increased with the provision of information, but remained unacceptable overall. Both values and beliefs were useful in explaining the acceptability of different management options. Empirical evidence of public opinion such as that presented here will aid decision-makers in engaging the public and reduce conflict by revealing the basis of opinion in people's values and beliefs, leading to better management decisions and conservation outcomes.
public opinion, overabundance, environmental values, beliefs, social acceptability, koalas