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This research aims to understand why one of two almost identical subspecies of the Australian yellow chat Ephthianura crocea has received significantly higher levels of local and institutional support than the other despite both having the same conservation status and taxonomic distinctiveness, factors commonly thought to influence conservation effort. Using a qualitative multiple case study approach we explored how a range of social factors, including stakeholder attitudes and institutional, policy and operational aspects, might have affected conservation efforts for the two taxa. Our results suggest that the conservation trajectories of these two subspecies have diverged since their identification as threatened species in 2000 because of differences in the social landscapes within which they persist. For one subspecies local advocacy was kindled initially by the small number of local endemic bird species but developed into a strong emotional engagement, resulting in increased local awareness, government funding, and effectiveness of conservation action. The other subspecies has had to compete for attention with approximately 200 other threatened taxa occurring in its region. No individual advocate has accorded this subspecies a high priority for action, and none of those responsible for its conservation have seen it or acknowledged an emotional attachment to it. Our findings confirm that initiation of conservation effort is strongly tied to the social values of individuals with power to take action, regardless of legislation.
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Do social values influence levels of conservation
effort in threatened species? The case of two
Australian chats
GILLIAN B. AINSWORTH,HEATHER J. ASLIN
MICHAEL A. WESTON and S TEPHEN T. GARNETT
Abstract This research aims to understand why one of two
almost identical subspecies of the Australian yellow chat
Ephthianura crocea has received significantly higher levels
of local and institutional support than the other despite
both havingthe same conservation status and taxonomic dis-
tinctiveness, factors commonly thought to influence conser-
vation effort. Using a qualitative multiple case study
approach we explored how a range of social factors, including
stakeholder attitudes and institutional, policy and operational
aspects, might have affected conservation efforts for the two
taxa. Our results suggest that the conservation trajectories of
these two subspecies have diverged since their identification
as threatened species in  because of differences in the so-
cial landscapes within which they persist. For one subspecies
local advocacy was kindled initially by the small number of
local endemic bird species but developed into a strong emo-
tional engagement, resulting in increased local awareness,
government funding, and effectiveness of conservation ac-
tion. The other subspecies has had to compete for attention
with approximately  other threatened taxa occurring in its
region. No individual advocate has accorded this subspecies a
high priority for action, and none of those responsible for its
conservation have seen it or acknowledged an emotional at-
tachment to it. Our findings confirm that initiation of conser-
vation effort is strongly tied to the social values of individuals
with power to take action, regardless of legislation.
Keywords Attitudes, birds, champions, conservation effort,
social construction, threatened species, values
Introduction
Over the last few decades substantial funding has been
made available for bird conservation, to try to reverse
species decline and extinction trends (Garnett et al., ;
McCarthy et al., ). Most research on threatened birds
and their conservation has been ecological, and tends not
to consider the social processes and the prevailing values
of human societies that affect threatened birds. Adopting
a biocultural perspective on extinction could have positive
implications for conservation practice (Ladle & Jepson,
). Understanding human values and how they influ-
ence conservation of threatened birds is essential if conser-
vation success is to be realized.
Values, enduring belief[s] that a specific mode of con-
duct or end-state of existence is personally or socially pref-
erable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or
end-state of existence(Rokeach, ,p.), can be held at
the level of individuals, groups, societies and cultures.
Where values are shared across levels they are sometimes re-
ferred to as social values, ...sets of ideals and beliefs to
which people individually and collectively aspire and
which they desire to uphold(Jepson & Canney, ).
Such values are constructed, and what is regarded as the
truth and as valuable may be thought of as no more than
the currently accepted ways of understanding and appreci-
ating the world (Burr, ). Thus, shared knowledge, be-
liefs and values concerning wildlife are based on a range
of assumptions about wildlife and expectations about na-
ture(Hytten & Burns, ) that are specific to the social
and cultural context in which they have been constructed.
At an individual level, identity, knowledge and beliefs are
constructed through complex processes of socialization and
acculturation (Berger & Luckmann, ) that affect an in-
dividuals ability to conform to the expectations of the social
groups to which they belong. Individuals who are involved
in wildlife management are thus likely to hold a shared sub-
set of the values of the society from which they are drawn.
These may be overlain with, and sometimes in conflict with,
the values espoused by the organizations they represent.
Multiple stakeholders representing various sectors of
society may participate in conservation strategies and
may have varying importance in conservation networks
(Jepson et al., ). Non-human factors, including species
or devices such as IUCN Red Lists, can also contribute sig-
nificantly (Jepson et al., ).
Within Australia, national (Commonwealth), state and
territory governments have legislative responsibility for pro-
tection of the environment. Usually one department in each
jurisdiction has primary responsibility for the environment.
GILLIAN B. AINSWORTH (Corresponding author), HEATHER J. ASLIN and STEPHEN
T. GARNETT Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles
Darwin University, Northern Territory 0909, Australia
E-mail gill.ainsworth@cdu.edu.au
MICHAEL A. WESTON School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of
Science, Engineering and the Built Environment, Deakin University,
Melbourne, Australia
Received January . Revision requested  February .
Accepted  April . First published online  September .
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Within such departments, responsibility for decisions about
threatened species often falls to individual managers, some
of whom may be experts in the field. For threatened wildlife,
such experts are usually biologists and, partly as a result, the
issues are typically framed in ecological terms rather than
being seen as social problems, although this is changing.
Beyond government scientists, other stakeholder groups
involved in conserving threatened species include the pri-
vate sector, representing business and industry that may
be affected by conservation efforts, and environmental
NGOs, which advocate for, or otherwise facilitate, conserva-
tion effort. In Australia as in many other countries, birds are
often highly valued by society (Zander et al., ) and have
unsolicited political power held for them in trust by interest
groups (Czech et al., ) such as BirdLife Australia, which
may in part advocate values that are shared by wider society.
Directing and maintaining the publics attention to threa-
tened species typically falls to organizations such as
BirdLife Australia. In each case the values of the individuals
and organizations in these sectors are likely to influence out-
comes for threatened species conservation.
Whereas the wider public, who may be expected either to
finance a strategy via government spending or otherwise tol-
erate the restrictions that are frequently associated with con-
servation interventions (Hunter & Rinner, ), are also
stakeholders, individual members of the public who become
involved in conservation are commonly associated with one
of the stakeholder groups already mentioned.
Decisions about setting funding priorities for threatened
species are generally made by experts, and conservation re-
search often focuses on threatened species listed in legisla-
tion rather than on common or non-threatened species, and
on mammals and birds rather than plants and invertebrates
(Seddon et al., ; Trimble & Van Aarde, ). Certain
types of biodiversity tend to attract disproportionate
amounts of public attention, such as tigers Panthera tigris
and elephants (Elephantidae spp.; Smith et al., ), or a
species may develop a high public profile as a result of
being the subject of political controversy. Flagship species
are one of several potential framings for wildlife-related
work focusing on single species. Some flagship species
could be described as actors, as their engagement produces
agency, which can effect change in the status quo (Jepson
et al., ). Selection of a flagship species often depends
on the values and goals of the agency conducting the con-
servation effort, and their intuition about public interests in
the area where those efforts are being conducted (Home
et al., ; Smith et al., ). Aesthetic appeal is often
prioritized over threat status, resulting in many overlooked
Cinderella species (Home et al., ; Smith et al., ).
We hypothesize that the type and strength of the values
held by individuals involved in the management of threa-
tened species are likely to have a profound effect on the
level of human, financial and other resources allocated to
the task relative to need and the outcome of that funding.
We ask how the values of key stakeholders involved with
the conservation of two closely related threatened birds
have affected their conservation management. This work,
part of a growing body of social research on what motivates
people to engage in activities that harm or promote the con-
servation of biodiversity(Sandbrook et al., ), aims to
understand why one of the study subspecies has received
high levels of local and institutional support while the
other has had very little, despite both having similar conser-
vation status and taxonomic distinctiveness, factors com-
monly thought to influence conservation effort (Restani &
Marzluff, ; Garnett et al., ). Understanding the
values of people influential in making decisions and imple-
menting conservation measures for these threatened birds
can help drive more effective conservation action in the fu-
ture, as in other fields (Carlos et al., ).
Methods
This research drew predominantly from the discipline of
social psychology, the theory of social constructionism
and the human dimensions of wildlife research. Using a
qualitative multiple case study approach (Yin, )weex-
plored how a range of social factors, including stakeholder
attitudes and institutional, policy and operational
aspects may affect conservation efforts for threatened
bird taxa. We focused on two Endangered subspecies of a
small (c. g) endemic Australian passerine: the Alligator
Rivers yellow chat Epthianura crocea tunneyi and the
Capricorn yellow chat Epthianura crocea macgregori.
This matched pair was selected because the taxa had con-
trasting societal support (e.g. funding, recovery plans, re-
covery actions, voluntary actions) despite being similar
in biology and appearance, thus controlling for the influ-
ence of aesthetic or behavioural attributes of a taxon that
might have masked other social drivers of conservation re-
sponse (Ainsworth, ).
The adult male yellow chat has bright yellow breeding
plumage, with a black band across the chest, which is absent
in the pale lemon females and non-breeding males (Schodde
& Mason, ; Woinarski & Armstrong, ; DSEWPaC,
a,b). Both subspecies have highly restricted ranges:
E. crocea tunneyi occurs only on the floodplains of two
rivers east of Darwin in the Northern Territory, and E. crocea
macgregori is restricted to the Capricorn region on the east
coast of Queensland. Both subspecies inhabit coastal salt-
pans and use shallow drainage channels and depressions
supporting a mosaic of wetland vegetation such as samphire
shrublands (Woinarski & Armstrong, ; DSEWPaC,
a,b; Houston et al., ).
The context for each taxon was established through a
desktop analysis of peer-reviewed scientific literature,
Social values and conservation effort 637
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gathering data about the biology and ecology, conservation
status and governance, levels of conservation effort, and so-
cial and economic considerations for the two taxa. A stake-
holder analysis identified the major stakeholders and their
institutional affiliations.
Itwasimportanttoidentifywhichindividualswithina
cross-section of society were deemed to hold appropriate
knowledge and experience of the conservation of each
taxon so that their particular attitudes could be analysed.
Thus,  key informants were invited to participate in the
study because they were considered to be sufficiently
knowledgeable regarding the conservation of the case
study taxa and were anticipated to hold a diverse range
of values for them. All except two of those invited agreed
to participate in the study. The small number of stake-
holders deemed sufficiently knowledgeable to contribute
to the research is a potential limitation of this study but
was unavoidable given the small scale of the conservation
effort.
GA conducted semi-structured interviews with  key in-
formants during AprilMay . Informants were provided
with a statement in plain language that guaranteed their
anonymity and asked for their consent prior to being inter-
viewed (Ainsworth, ). Four informants represented the
Alligator Rivers yellow chat (a birdwatcher, a business/in-
dustry representative, a national park management agency
representative, and a state/territory government scientist),
and seven represented the Capricorn yellow chat (two aca-
demics, one business/industry representative, a birding
NGO representative, a landholder, a natural resource man-
agement agency representative, and a state/territory govern-
ment scientist).
Interviews lasted approximately hour and the questions
focused on the informantsvalues and attitudes towards the
case study taxa. We generally avoided direct questions re-
garding participant values because of the difficulty with
identifying or articulating values that are deeply held, pri-
vately defended, ethically charged or not available to con-
sciousness at a moments notice, and to avoid participants
potentially overstating the strength of their views in a pos-
sible desire to conform socially (Satterfield, ). Questions
were asked in a way that was intended to be meaningful to
participants and to allow for subsequent qualitative content
analysis (Minichiello et al., ). The term valuewas used
minimally and always in a common language sense that par-
ticipants were expected to understand in general terms
(Ainsworth, ).
All interviews were recorded and transcriptions were im-
ported into NVivo v.  (QSR International Pty Ltd,
Doncaster, Australia). Attitudes were coded manually ac-
cording to a new typology of  attitudes to avifauna, devel-
oped in GAs PhD research to describe the various ways
Australians value birds (Ainsworth, ). The  attitude
categories reflect aesthetic, biophysical, conservation,
ecological, experiential, humanistic, mastery, moral, nega-
tive, spiritual, symbolic and utilitarian values held by
Australians for birds (Ainsworth, ). Individual coding
nodes were created in NVivo for each of the  categories
and text was coded under one or more nodes, depending
on the attitude(s) expressed. The following comment, for
example, discusses the ecological relationship between a
species and its habitat and was primarily coded under the
ecological node: Theres no other bird living in that particu-
lar exact habitat in the region.
Results
Conservation status and governance
Legislative responsibility for the two subspecies lies
with both the Commonwealth and the relevant state or
territory governments. The Alligator Rivers subspecies is
listed as Endangered under both the Commonwealths
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation
Act  and the Northern Territorys Territory Parks and
Wildlife Conservation Act  (DSEWPaC, a;
DLRM, ). The Capricorn subspecies is listed as
Critically Endangered under the Environment Protection
and Biodiversity Conservation Act  and Endangered
under Queenslands Nature Conservation Act 
(Houston & Melzer, ; DSEWPaC, b). Both subspe-
cies face some common threats, such as damage to habitat by
grazing and feral animals, invasive exotic grasses, climate
change, fire, and impacts on water quality from saltwater in-
trusion or altered water flows (Woinarski & Armstrong,
; Houston et al., ; DSEWPaC, a,b; Kyne &
Jackson, ).
The Alligator Rivers subspecies was first identified as
Endangered by Garnett & Crowley () on the basis of
its small range and extent of suitable habitat. At the time
the population was estimated to comprise, with low cer-
tainty, c.  individuals and to be a single, declining popu-
lation. A systematic assessment of its status in  found
 individuals (Armstrong, ), but none were found
during a monitoring programme in Kakadu National Park
during  (Woinarski et al., ). The population
was recently estimated to be , individuals (Garnett
et al., ) and a systematic survey for the subspecies con-
ducted in Kakadu in  found only  individuals at a sin-
gle location, suggesting a substantial decline over a -year
period (Kyne & Jackson, ).
The Northern Territory Government produced a
two-page Threatened Species Information Sheet in 
describing the status of the Alligator Rivers subspecies, and
its conservation and management priorities (Woinarski &
Armstrong, ). Although Commonwealth Conservation
Advice was approved in  by the Commonwealth
638 G. B. Ainsworth et al.
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Environment Minister (Threatened Species Scientific
Committee, ), there was no recovery plan or team in
place at the time of this research.
Most records of the Alligator Rivers subspecies have been
from three conservation reserves: Kakadu and Mary River
National Parks and Harrison Dam Reserve (Woinarski &
Armstrong, ), all within a few hoursdrive of Darwin,
the regional administrative centre. Although both park
management plans listed this subspecies, among many, as
being in need of protection within the parks, management
activities aimed specifically at conserving chats were not
being undertaken in either park (Director of National
Parks, ; PWSNT, ).
The Capricorn subspecies was also first identified as
threatened by Garnett & Crowley (). It is restricted to
Capricornia, an area of the central Queensland coast, near
the Fitzroy River and within a few hoursdrive of the region-
al city of Rockhampton. It has been recorded at  sites but
only regularly at five locations, including Torilla Plain,
where it is most abundant (Garnett et al., ). The subspe-
cies was once believed to be extinct but was rediscovered on
the marine plain on Curtis Island in , having not been
seen for  years (Houston et al., ; FBA, ). It was
first listed as Critically Endangered in  on the basis that
the habitat of this single population was thought to be de-
creasing in area and quality. The population at the time
was thought to comprise as few as  mature individuals
in winter (Garnett & Crowley, ). In  two additional
populations were found at sites where the birds were previ-
ously thought to be extinct (Houston et al., ).
Populations are now thought to fluctuate, with a mean
population of c.  mature individuals. Management
documentation includes a national recovery plan, and recov-
ery efforts have been managed by an informal recovery team
(FBA, ; Houston & Melzer, ;BirdsAustralia,).
Conservation effort
Of the two yellow chat subspecies the Alligator Rivers was
less well studied and had been the focus of less conservation
effort (Table ). It also had fewer and less diverse stake-
holders involved in its conservation.
The Capricorn subspecies had been reasonably well sur-
veyed compared with its Northern Territory counterpart; it
was a high priority for conservation under Queenslands
Back on Track species prioritization framework (DEHP,
). It was the focus of a Birds Australia (now BirdLife
Australia) conservation project (Birds Australia, ) and
was promoted as a flagship species by local environmental
groups, partly because of its aesthetic appeal and partly be-
cause of its status as the only endemic bird in the Capricorn
region ( ABC Brisbane, ; Capricorn Conservation
Council, ).
Social and economic considerations
The Alligator Rivers subspecies has been recorded in na-
tional parks managed by the Commonwealth (Kakadu)
and Northern Territory Governments (Mary River) but nei-
ther government has provided dedicated funding to manage
the subspecies, even though Kakadu is one of the best-
funded national parks in Australia. In  a record
TABLE 1 Examples of support for the conservation of the Alligator Rivers Epthianura crocea tunneyi and Capricorn Epthianura crocea
macgregori yellow chat subspecies (Armstrong, ; Woinarski & Armstrong, ; Houston & Melzer, ; Kyne & Dostine, ;
DEHP, ; DERM, ; DSEWPaC, a,b).
Type of support Alligator Rivers yellow chat Capricorn yellow chat
Recovery programme None Informal recovery team
Expert groups None BirdLife Australia conservation project
Back on Track; high priority for conservation
Research Distribution & abundance within
Kakadu National Park
3 major studies on incidence, ecology & rediscovery
Publications 0 species profile references
(SPRAT*)
1 book chapter
29 species profile references (SPRAT*)
Funding None AUD 535,150: estimated cost to implement 5-year recovery
programme
AUD 22,816: Threatened Species Network Grants received
(20032005)
Stakeholder
involvement
Department of Land Resource
Management, Kakadu & Mary
River National Parks; Aboriginal
Land Trusts
BirdLife Australia, including BirdLife Capricornia; Department of
Environment Heritage Protection, state government agencies &
shire councils; Environment Protection Agency; Australian
universities; pastoral leaseholders & freeholders; Fitzroy Basin
Authority & other natural resource management agencies;
Australian Defence Department; indigenous groups
*Australian Commonwealth Government Species Profile and Threats Database
Social values and conservation effort 639
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, people visited Shady Camp, one of the few places
where the Alligator Rivers subspecies has been seen recently
and a popular and nationally known recreational fishing
spot in Mary River National Park. However, park manage-
ment did not mention the chats being present in the vicinity
(PWSNT, ). There is no coordinated bird conservation
group in the Northern Territory region to draw attention to
the subspecies.
The Capricorn subspecieshabitat occurs across a range of
tenure types, including freehold, leasehold (special, mineral
and grazing) and protected areas (Curtis Island marine
plain; Houston et al., ;McCabe&James,). Most of
the known breeding habitat, at Twelve Mile Creek (Fitzroy
Delta), lies within the upper extent of leasehold land used for
salt extraction (Houston & Melzer, ). Applications for
development that had the potential to affect the habitat of
the Capricorn subspecies, such as infrastructure development
in the Port of Gladstone (BirdLife Capricornia, ), had to be
referred to the Commonwealth Department of Sustainability,
Environment, Water, Population and Communities (since 
Department of the Environment) under the Environment
Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act  to deter-
mine if the developments were likely to have a deleterious
effect on the subspecies (Houston & Melzer, ). There
was a requirement to monitor grazing practices on freehold
grazing properties and grazing lease areas in Curtis Island
Conservation Park (Houston & Melzer, ).
Funding of recovery efforts in Queensland has come mainly
from the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments,
but Central Queensland University, the Fitzroy Basin
Authority, BirdLife Capricornia and the Threatened
Species Network have also contributed funds (Threatened
Species Network, ; FBA, ; Houston & Melzer,
; Birds Australia, ;Table ). Important habitat
was managed by those with an interest in the affected
land, such as staff of Curtis Island National Park, workers
at a salt refinery, and pastoralists and graziers. The bird-
watching and fishing communities accessed some areas of
habitat at Twelve Mile Creek for recreational purposes
(Houston & Melzer, ).
Which values are held for each subspecies?
Attitudes towards the two yellow chat subspecies were re-
vealed through the answers of key informants to a set of
questions used to initiate conversations. These attitudes
are compared in Table , according to the  categories in
the avifaunal attitudes typology.
How did you get involved with the yellow chat? At the time
interviews were conducted none of the key informants for
the Alligator Rivers subspecies had seen the bird in the
wild, and they implied that interest in the taxon was limited
to a few local people. They perceived the bird to be rare, given
its small population and limited distribution. It was not
known to be under immediate threat and therefore was not
a priority for conservation effort. It was said that a small gov-
ernment team was responsible for conserving the chat, along
with c.  other threatened species (many of which are en-
demic to the Kakadu region). A similar situation was de-
scribed in Kakadu National Park, where conservation of the
main population was led by an individual with a broad re-
search and monitoring remit but no particular role regarding
the birds. Both key informants from the government
and national park agencies responsible said they were in-
volved in the conservation effort as part of their role rather
than having any specific personal interest in it:
Its a listed threatened species and therefore I had to address it as I have
to every other threatened species. (Northern Territory government
informant)
One key informant described how his birding tour business
could contribute to conservation efforts for the taxon by
TABLE 2 Comparison of attitudes expressed by key informants about the Alligator Rivers and Capricorn yellow chat subspecies, according
to the avifaunal attitude categories.
Attitude
Alligator Rivers yellow chat
(n = 4)
Capricorn yellow chat
(n = 7) Example
Aesthetic Appreciation of physical characteristics of birds
Biophysical Physical attributes & biological functioning of birds
Conservation ✓✓Relating to conservation of threatened birds
Ecological ✓✓Interrelationships between birds & natural habitats
Experiential Experiences with birds in their natural habitat
Humanistic Affection or concern for, symbolic meaning of, birds
Mastery ✓✓Literal or metaphorical mastery & control of birds
Moral ✓✓Responsibility for conserving bird taxa
Negative Dislike of birds, or conflict between birds & people through
competition for resources
Spiritual Birds possessing spiritual significance
Symbolic Birds as flagship species
Utilitarian Material benefit of birds or bird habitat to human society
640 G. B. Ainsworth et al.
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recording sightings and generating an interest in the bird
among his local, national and international tour guests if
he had more accurate information about where it could be
found. Another key informant, a local birdwatcher, had
published a summary of current knowledge about the
taxon. He said that he appreciated the symbolic role it
played in highlighting the efforts required to conserve
what was generally considered to be a pristine wetland land-
scape, but also intimated how keen he was to add this
difficult-to-see bird to his list of Top End sightings:
I found it difficult to find information on, so my quest to see one hasnt
succeeded yet. (Birdwatcher)
In contrast, most of the key informants for the Capricorn
subspecies stated they saw the bird on a regular basis, or
knew where the birds could be sighted. One key informant
explained that he got involved when Birds Queensland
funded the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service to investi-
gate the conservation status of the Curtis Island population in
. A second key informant said he became involved when
two mainland populations were discovered at Torilla Plain
and the Fitzroy Delta in , and that this acted as a catalyst
for much of the conservation effort for the taxon:
We really had the opportunity to study a bird that was little known in
the whole of Australia, more easily than anyone else...I dont think I
knew enough about the significance of them at the time...it was a bird
Id never seen ... I devoured everything about them after we did.
(Academic)
Key informants mentioned that after this rediscovery a
range of opportunities arose, resulting in several new re-
search partnerships with individuals and local organiza-
tions. They also pointed out how individuals could
influence conservation efforts significantly; for example, in
 one key informant started working at a salt refinery
within key habitat of the Capricorn subspecies and, because
he had a general interest in birds and in conservation of
threatened birds in particular, he granted permission to
Central Queensland University to survey the salt pans. He
explained how this decision resulted in a personal affection
for the birds and an interest in their survival. Conversely,
another key informant had replaced a local staff member
of a natural resource management agency in  and, as
a result of an administrative oversight, ceased annual fund-
ing to conduct population surveys and monitoring. A key
informant who owned a pastoral property where the
Torilla Plain population was discovered described how a
scientist found it during a routine wetland bird survey on
his property:
I just said to him Id been here all my life and I see them on a regular
basis. He was kinda knocked over when I told him that and .. . thats
how they started coming up here and counting them. (Pastoralist)
Another key informant got involved with the subspecies
through BirdLife Capricornia, which promotes it as the re-
gions only endemic bird, thereby creating demand among
birdwatching tourists to see what has become an iconic
taxon for the region.
What is most important to you about conservation of the yel-
low chat? Key informants identified the collection of biophys-
ical and threat impact data as most important to the
conservation of the Alligator Rivers subspecies. The partner-
ship between the Northern Territory Government and the
Commonwealth Government-managed Kakadu National
Park was described as sometimes facilitating this flow of in-
formation and sometimes blocking it. Improved community
engagement was also raised as an important issue. However,
this was perceived by some key informants as being neither
supported by the authorities nor desired by the community:
I know that places like Shady Camp are somewhere birders will go to
try and see the species because they want to tick another species off.To
be honest, I dont see that as a big imperative. What I want to know is
that the species is relatively secure and those sorts of things. (Northern
Territory government informant)
Discussion about the importance of conserving the
Capricorn subspecies focused more on its inherent right to
exist and societys responsibility for preventing its disappear-
ance. Reasons given included the birds attractive appearance,
its engaging behaviour and its specialized role in a fascinating
landscape. Protecting its habitat and managing threats were
identified as key actions that could be implemented.
Do you personally believe that conservation efforts for the yel-
low chat will succeed or fail? There were no actions being
undertaken with the aim of conserving the Alligator
Rivers subspecies at the time of this research. Population
monitoring was infrequent and had not been conducted
since , as the population was not perceived to be declin-
ing significantly. Climate change was perceived as being a
significant unknown factor, with the potential to affect the
taxons habitat either positively or negatively. Key informant
opinions about the success of conservation efforts for the
Capricorn subspecies were more positive. However, in
part this was attributed to finding additional populations ra-
ther than the efficacy of conservation efforts. The ongoing
preservation of suitable habitat was identified as a concern,
as it was thought to rely in the short term on the precarious
support of landholders and government in the face of eco-
nomic pressure, and to be vulnerable to climate change in
the longer term. It was suggested that the local universitys
survey and monitoring efforts could provide justification for
protecting key habitat.
Is it important to you that a population of the yellow chat
exists in the wild? The existence of a wild population of
the Alligator Rivers subspecies meant various things to the
individuals involved, including protecting the important
ecological function the birds play in their wetlands habitat
and as an indicator of the systems health, respecting the
Social values and conservation effort 641
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birdsintrinsic right to persist where they belong, and main-
taining their psychological or other contribution to human-
ity. The subspecies was not described in emotional terms,
which is perhaps unsurprising given that none of the key in-
formants had seen it in the wild and it had no public cham-
pion to encourage interest. The connection of the Capricorn
subspecies to its habitat, its intrinsic right to exist and the
benefit it provided to people as an interesting, unique and
attractive bird were all given as reasons for preserving a
wild population of this taxon, especially in light of conflict-
ing social values:
These species have got a huge financial benefit for the community. If
we just take tourism as an example, people are prepared to spend a lot
of money to go to where there are threatened species or endemic spe-
cies that cant be seen anywhere else, and that kind of thing is totally
ignored as compared to having a new coalmine or some other infra-
structure built. (Birding NGO informant)
Discussion
The two yellow chat subspecies exist in different human so-
cial contexts, as indicated by the attitudes expressed about
them (Table ), and they were socially constructed by key
informants in different ways. Few people were known to
have seen the Alligator Rivers subspecies in the wild, not
even those who manage conservation effort for it, and this
lack of experience with the taxon contributed to its ongoing
obscurity. Only conservation, ecological, mastery and moral
attitudes were expressed about it. In contrast, key infor-
mants had opportunities to engage directly with the
Capricorn subspecies because of its proximity to human
habitation, and the resulting knowledge, affection and sup-
port meant this subspecies was valued more highly and
more diversely across a broader cross-section of society
than the Alligator Rivers subspecies. It therefore appeared
better placed to receive support, and thus persist, in the
face of future conservation challenges.
In retrospect both subspecies had the potential to follow
identical conservation trajectories. Both were confirmed as
distinct subspecies in  (Schodde & Mason, )and
their rarity was acknowledged, and both were listed as threa-
tened species in  (Garnett & Crowley, ). Their
conservation trajectories first started to diverge in 
when the Capricorn subspecies was categorized as Critically
Endangered under the Environment Protection and
Biodiversity Conservation Act ;theAlligatorRiverssub-
species was not categorized as Endangered until .This
divergence was already being influenced by the contrasting so-
cial landscapes within which the birds existed.
One could argue that a lack of general awareness of, and
knowledge about, the Alligator Rivers yellow chat had ham-
pered social interest and stakeholder involvement in recov-
ery efforts, but this was also true for the Capricorn
subspecies when both were listed as threatened in .
Similarly, both locations where the birds live are relatively
remote but are nevertheless within a few hoursdrive of
similar-sized regional cities, both of which have universities
conducting environmental research.
Critically, the Alligator Rivers subspecies never had a
champion to encourage interest or empathy. It was not de-
scribed by any key informant in humanistic terms and ap-
peared to be given low financial, organizational and
emotional priority among the c.  other threatened spe-
cies in the Northern Territory (many of which are endemic
to the Kakadu region). That neither of the two key infor-
mants identified as responsible for the conservation of the
bird had allocated time to see the taxon, and the other
two key informants could not find information on where
to see it, is indicative of the low level of local interest.
Potential interest groups, such as birdwatchers and recre-
ational fishers, also showed little interest in the taxon, pos-
sibly because of the wealth of other distinctive local bird
species and the taxons remote and inhospitable geograph-
ical location, or because there was no local birding NGO to
stimulate interest.
Although the taxon was listed under the Environment
Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act  it was
not perceived to warrant a recovery team or recovery plan,
and therefore no funding was forthcoming from the
Commonwealth Government to conduct formal recovery
efforts under this Act. The few individuals within the
Department of Land Resource Management responsible
for the management of the subspecies had neither the evi-
dence required on which to base any increased support
for its recovery, nor the capacity to develop strategies to
gather such evidence. Consequently, it has not been estab-
lished whether or not threats to its survival are becoming
more serious.
In contrast, for the Capricorn subspecies a correlation
was found between experiential, humanistic and conserva-
tion attitudes expressed by key informants about this sub-
species (i.e. personal encounters with it, and concern
about its plight, led key informants to engage proactively
in recovery efforts).
Listing of the subspecies as a high priority under the
Queensland Governments Back on Track species prioritiza-
tion framework (DEHP, ) meant it was prioritized
for further analysis under the programme. Additionally, a
national recovery plan facilitated the management of the
subspecies by an informal recovery team. These two policy
frameworks were thus part of the conservation network and
effected positive management action for the Capricorn
yellow chat.
The Capricorn subspecies had the advantage of having
two champions representing the scientific and birdwatching
communities. Champions can lend credibility to conserva-
tion initiatives and improve levels of participation and com-
mitment by other stakeholders (Knight et al., ). In this
case the champions created an informal recovery team,
642 G. B. Ainsworth et al.
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developed a recovery plan in association with the relevant
government agency, conducted specialist research, secured
funding and raised public awareness of the subspecies.
Additionally, because it existed on a variety of land tenure
types, a diverse range of key stakeholders became engaged
in managing critical habitat for the Capricorn yellow chat,
there was increased awareness about its plight, and demand
was created for it to be protected.
Although the government management agency with legis-
lative responsibility for conservation of the Capricorn yellow
chat responded to societal interest, it was the champions
emotional connection to the species, derived from their per-
sonal experiences with it, that distinguished these interviews
from those related to the Alligator River subspecies.
A possible additional reason why the Capricorn subspe-
cies has been the focus of greater conservation effort is the
publicity generated by the discovery, in , of two small
populations on the mainland, where it was previously
thought to be extinct (Houston et al., ). This is an ex-
ample of a Wallacean extinction, whereby inadequate bio-
geographical knowledge about the taxon appears to have
resulted in a good news story that inspired conservation ac-
tion (Ladle & Jepson, ). Even though, ironically, this
discovery meant the subspecies was less threatened than
previously thought, it also made the subspecies more access-
ible; more people could see the birds and become involved
in their conservation, widening the range of stakeholder
support (Conaghan, ).This discovery altered how the
subspecies was socially constructed, prompting action that
led to increased interest in its conservation.
Further publicity was generated when critical habitat was
potentially threatened by expansion of a local harbour
(Eberhard, ; BirdLife Capricornia, ; Jacques, )
and when BirdLife Capricornia highlighted the subspecies
in a campaign before an election, calling for all political par-
ties to protect Australias most threatened birds (Gladstone
Observer, ).
The Alligator Rivers yellow chat has not attracted much at-
tention in the media. It exists entirely within protected areas,
so is probably thought by the public to be well cared for, and
the threats it faces are diffuse and difficult to ameliorate (Kyne
& Dostine, ). This subspecies has similar aesthetic appeal
and threat status to the flagship Capricorn yellow chat, yet
it remains a Cinderella species with flagship potential but
no NGO support to promote it. That neither Northern
Territory nor Commonwealth government environmental
agency staff recognized the potential agency of the Alligator
Rivers yellow chat to attract interest from the local fishing
and birdwatching communities highlights a missed oppor-
tunity to develop conservation effort for the subspecies and
its habitats, and adopt a more enlightened conservation man-
agement and policy approach (Jepson et al., ).
Neither the Alligator Rivers yellow chat nor its habitat is
threatened directly by human intervention, and therefore
rather than benefiting from a controversial or transforma-
tive event it has remained in relative obscurity to face an un-
certain fate. Possibly because of this, and despite its listing
under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity
Conservation Act , it has never been considered to war-
rant a national recovery plan. Consequently, this subspecies
has received less conservation funding and support than the
Capricorn yellow chat (Table ) and has had a less diverse
range of stakeholders involved in its conservation.
Local lobbying, partly as a consequence of this study, re-
sulted in a dedicated survey for the Alligator Rivers subspe-
cies in Kakadu National Park in September . Only 
individuals were found and most locations of previous sight-
ings had been uprooted by feral pigs Sus scrofa (Kyne &
Jackson, ). It remains to be seen if this assessment will
prompt conservation interest in the subspecies, as happened
with the rediscovered Capricorn subspecies.
This research supports the idea that human preferences
bias research and conservation effort regardless of legislative
responsibilities; it suggests how and why particularly closely
related threatened bird taxa are valued differently, and how
this may be linked to overall levels of conservation funding
and social interest in them. Few previous attempts have been
made to engage diverse stakeholders in priority setting (but
see Miller & Weston, ). These findings are consistent
with the notion that decisions about which taxa to prioritize
for conservation effort are often influenced by political de-
cision making, significant events or social attitudes, which
propel certain species into the limelight and engender
some societal response. The factors most influential in
these two case studies appear to be the presence of cham-
pions, and current social constructions of competing species
and the profile of threats and threatening processes.
The contrasting networks of human and non-human ac-
tors involved in the conservation of the two subspecies were
also significant. Our findings suggest that the initiation of
conservation actions for threatened bird taxa are influenced
directly by the unique networks of people engaged in specif-
ic conservation strategies and the ways they socially con-
struct various taxa, which is probably related to the
attitudes and experiences of key individuals, their sphere
of expertise and influence, and associated institutional
norms (Berger & Luckmann, ). It was also evident
that particular contemporary social factors played a signifi-
cant role in catalysing conservation action for the Capricorn
subspecies, including the current social construction of the
subspecies itself, its rediscovery, and the policy frameworks
triggered by its current conservation status.
Our findings thus demonstrate the important role that
cultural and social framings of conservation issues, and
the values and priorities of local conservation actors, play
in conservation success (Ladle & Jepson, ).
Accordingly, this study confirms that social values can
have a significant influence on conservation effort,
Social values and conservation effort 643
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particularly when key individuals become committed to
conserving particular taxa and effectively mobilize others
who share their values.
Acknowledgements
We are grateful to all the key informants for contributing to
this study. The research was supported financially by GAs
Commonwealth Government Australian Postgraduate
Award scholarship and Charles Darwin Universitys
Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods.
We sincerely thank two anonymous reviewers whose valu-
able insights improved the article.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0030605315000538
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Biographical sketches
GILLIAN AINSWORTH has spent  years working in the environmen-
tal not-for-profit and academic sectors. Her PhD examined the rela-
tionship between social values and conservation of Australian
threatened birds. HEATHER ASLIN began her career as a wildlife
biologist, and has worked as a social scientist for more than  years.
Her main interests are in humannature relationships. MICHAEL
WESTON has worked on recovery efforts for threatened birds, includ-
ing coordinating related citizen science contributions, for over 
years. STEPHEN GARNETT has worked on threatened Australian
birds for  years, initially as a biologist, now more broadly. He has ex-
perience in field research on individual species and reviews of threats
and processes, including many of the social processes that create the
most difficult threats to manage.
Social values and conservation effort 645
Oryx
, 2016, 50(4), 636645 ©2015 Fauna & Flora International doi:10.1017/S0030605315000538
http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0030605315000538
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... Conservation practitioners admit to being driven by a deep passion for wild places and for biodiversity conservation (Toussaint 2005;Ainsworth et al. 2016aAinsworth et al. , 2016b, and intrinsically valuing wildlife can influence morally relevant emotions, cognitions and behaviour in ways that benefit wildlife conservation (Lute et al. 2016;Burns 2017). ...
... Major stakeholders and their institutions were identified during a thorough stakeholder analysis which drew on sources including advice from experts, published literature, institutional websites and personal knowledge. This process identified stakeholders who were invited to participate because they were considered experts in relation to conserving the case study taxa and anticipated to hold a diverse range of values towards them (Ainsworth et al. 2016a(Ainsworth et al. , 2016b. These stakeholders were also selected because they regularly communicated information about the case study taxa to the public (e.g. through scientific publications, species management plans, organisational websites, newsletters and conservation activities). ...
... The 74 stakeholders interviewed represented all seven Australian states and territories and were recruited from five societal sectors: government (27 participants); scientific (14); private (13); non-government (11); and public (9) (SM Table 3). Most participants were biological scientists, reflecting their overall importance to the threatened bird conservation process, but the sample also included volunteers, landowners, media personnel and birdwatchers (Ainsworth et al. 2016a(Ainsworth et al. , 2016b. The views of this purposefully recruited sample are indicative of those working to conserve the case study taxa, but do not necessarily represent the full range of possible stakeholders working to conserve threatened birds. ...
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Birds are of significant scientific and public interest yet although human interactions with birds are widespread and diverse in nature, relatively few people participate in conservation initiatives. Understanding how conservation practitioners describe conservation issues and whether this resonates with recipients’ attitudes could help create more appealing conservation strategies. This study applied a new typology of 12 avifaunal attitudes during 74 qualitative interviews with Australian conservation practitioners from the government, non-government, private, public and scientific sectors to investigate how they frame threatened bird issues. Messages about threatened bird conservation were typically positive and framed according to four major themes: morality, intrinsic value, empathy and loss. A strong link between empathy for wildlife and moral justification for preventing extinctions emerged. We recommend that public messages advocating for threatened bird conservation could be framed in positive ways that arouse emotions. Expressing a broad range of attitudes could appeal at both public interest and policymaker levels and assist with developing more effective frames to capture some of the complex social landscape within which threatened species conservation operates. These findings could apply to wildlife conservation in Australia and elsewhere. Finally, the typology can assist with developing appropriately framed and targeted conservation engagement strategies.
... In cross-cultural collaborations, ample time should be provided to understand perspectives, develop trust and build relationships, define the governance structure and establish intellectual property agreements (Ens et al. 2012;Bohensky et al. 2013). Investing time and energy to develop good stakeholder relationships and develop compatible objectives early in the process can provide long-term benefits such as financial support (Bush Heritage Australia 2017), community advocacy (Ainsworth et al. 2016) and institutional commitment to projects (Burbidge et al. 2011). ...
... Conservation champions can influence and strengthen values and drive species recovery. Local champions, in particular, can lend credibility to conservation initiatives, and mobilise action, exemplified by the conservation trajectories of two almost morphologically identical, equally threatened birds (Ainsworth et al. 2016). In the first instance, local advocacy led to strong emotional attachment to the Capricorn Chat (Epthianura crocea macgregori), resulting in increased awareness, government funding and effective conservation actions. ...
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Monitoring is essential for effective conservation and management of threatened species and ecological communities. However, more often than not, threatened species monitoring is poorly implemented, meaning that conservation decisions are not informed by the best available knowledge. We outline challenges and provide best‐practice guidelines for threatened species monitoring, informed by the diverse perspectives of 26 conservation managers and scientists from a range of organisations with expertise across Australian species and ecosystems. Our collective expertise synthesised five key principles that aim to enhance the design, implementation and outcomes of threatened species monitoring. These principles are (i) integrate monitoring with management; (ii) design fit‐for‐purpose monitoring programs; (iii) engage people and organisations; (iv) ensure good data management; and (v) communicate the value of monitoring. We describe how to incorporate these principles into existing frameworks to improve current and future monitoring programs. Effective monitoring is essential to inform appropriate management and enable better conservation outcomes for our most vulnerable species and ecological communities.
... In cross-cultural collaborations, ample time should be provided to understand perspectives, develop trust and build relationships, define the governance structure and establish intellectual property agreements (Ens et al. 2012;Bohensky et al. 2013). Investing time and energy to develop good stakeholder relationships and develop compatible objectives early in the process can provide long-term benefits such as financial support (Bush Heritage Australia 2017), community advocacy (Ainsworth et al. 2016) and institutional commitment to projects (Burbidge et al. 2011). ...
... Conservation champions can influence and strengthen values and drive species recovery. Local champions, in particular, can lend credibility to conservation initiatives, and mobilise action, exemplified by the conservation trajectories of two almost morphologically identical, equally threatened birds (Ainsworth et al. 2016). In the first instance, local advocacy led to strong emotional attachment to the Capricorn Chat (Epthianura crocea macgregori), resulting in increased awareness, government funding and effective conservation actions. ...
... As a result, the biodiversity of these landscape can further deteriorate, thus exacerbating the "extinction of experience" phenomenon (Pyle, 1993;Soga and Gaston, 2016). Moreover, bird conservation efforts are tied to social values (Ainsworth et al., 2016(Ainsworth et al., , 2018, directing decisionmaking processes toward more valued species. Environmental awareness and citizen-science programs are useful to expand the perception of these species with low or no associated cultural value (Trumbull et al., 2000). ...
Article
Full-text available
Birds provide many ecosystem services to people, including provisioning, regulating and cultural services. People attribute multiple cultural values to ecosystems and biodiversity and the diversity of these cultural values can be considered as cultural diversity. While human-nature interactions occur more frequently in cities and urbanization negatively affects different facets of avian biodiversity, little is known about its consequence for cultural diversity. Here, we assess how the urbanization gradient in Campo Grande, a Brazilian city in the Cerrado biodiversity hotspot, affects functional and cultural diversity associated with birds and if functional and cultural diversity are congruent. We also investigate the relation between urbanization gradient with functional traits and cultural values, weighted by species abundance. We used a dataset based on bird surveyed in 61 landscapes along a gradient of impervious surface cover. To estimate functional and cultural diversity, we used indices that estimate richness and divergence of functional traits and cultural values. We found that urbanization affected functional and cultural richness negatively, while there was no effect on functional and cultural divergence. Functional and cultural richness and functional and cultural divergence were weakly, but significantly correlated. Bird species that nested on trees decreased and those that nest in artificial structures and on the ground increased along impervious surface gradient. Body size, diet, habitat, mating system, flock behavior and all cultural values (number of times the species was mentioned by football teams, music or poetry, city flags and anthems, and folklore tales) were not significantly affected by impervious surface. The negative relationship between impervious surface and bird cultural richness may indicate that people living in more urbanized areas experience nature less compared to people in less urbanized areas, which can affect their psychological well-being. In these highly urbanized areas, contact with culturally valued birds and cultural services provided by birds may also diminish. The negative relationship between functional richness and urbanization also indicated that highly urbanized areas may be losing important ecosystems services provided by birds.
... Global conservation effort tends to be focused towards species such as birds and mammals, and, additionally, may be biased by personal interests, for example favouring species that are phylogenetically closer to humans and those that are useful to humans (Farrier et al., 2007;Martín-López et al., 2009). Similarly, society often has more interest in the conservation of well-known (Ainsworth, Aslin, Weston, & Garnett, 2016) and 'charismatic' species (Farrier et al., 2007), which are usually large, cute or impressive mammals, such as tigers, koalas, and whales. This, in turn, guides scientific research efforts. ...
Article
1. Species listing and subsequent conservation efforts are dependent on a number of political, social, and scientific factors, often to the disadvantage of uncharismatic taxa, such as small, cryptic, and rare species, and those that lack commercial value. 2. This case study examined the listing, impact assessment and conservation process of the critically endangered marine seaweed Nereia lophocladia (Nereia hereafter), which is a small and sporadically occurring species. 3. Nereia was initially listed as vulnerable, and upgraded to critically endangered, following the precautionary principle. Despite the elevation of its listing and the existence of a recovery plan, little conservation effort was devoted to Nereia. 4. A major upgrade to a large breakwater adjacent to Nereia's only known location triggered legislation and targeted searches for the species. Once found at the site, adaptive management actions, including modifications to the breakwater and some of the first targeted scientific surveys for this species took place. 5. The targeted surveys quickly revealed a far greater population of Nereia with a broader distribution than was previously realized. Given this, the breakwater upgrade probably caused less extinction risk to Nereia than predicted and a costly redesign may not have been necessary to secure the species' survival. 6. The case study argues for a proactive, evidentiary approach to species conservation , where conservation actions should be initiated as soon as species are listed and not when an immediate risk of extinction arises. Such approaches would improve conservation efforts and may also reduce the overall costs of saving species
... Engaging with the general public in conservation efforts is a critical aspect of successful conservation of flora and fauna (Ainsworth et al. 2016). Given that developed countries may invest more in conservation and theoretically may be able to reduce environmental impacts (Bradshaw et al. 2010), it might be expected that engagement of citizens would be highest amongst these countries. ...
Article
Effective worldwide efforts to conserve flora and fauna rely on engaging the public, and thus on public appreciation of the object of conservation activities (most commonly, 'biodiversity'). We examined alignment of interpretation of the term 'biodiversity' with generally accepted definitions in a representative sample (n = 499) of the public from the State of Victoria in Australia, a country with an explicit biodiversity conservation strategy (which defines the term) and the capacity to invest heavily in conservation. However, almost half of respondents did not know what 'biodiversity' meant, 32% and 18% expressed an ecological and conceptual interpretation, respectively. The probability of having at least some interpretation of the term was higher among university-educated respondents, but otherwise did not vary with sex or income. Broadening the base of conservation efforts would likely be facilitated by better aligning interpretations of the term 'biodiversity' among the public or by adopting more intuitive language when engaging with the public.
... baudinii), is that Carnaby's cockatoo is highly visible within the urban environment (Ainsworth et al. 2016a). Similarly, the significantly greater conservation effort directed towards one subspecies of yellow chat (Ephthianura crocea) than another almost identical subspecies was attributed to a response to the low initial number of endemic bird species, which developed into strong emotional engagement derived from personal experiences with the bird, in conjunction with increasing local awareness and, ultimately, government funding (Ainsworth et al. 2016b). ...
Article
Full-text available
Urban areas are highly modified landscapes that can support significant biodiversity, including threatened species, although native species are usually present at low densities and several native species will be absent. The most powerful tool for increasing urban biodiversity is supporting existing biodiversity through appropriately designed and managed public and private greenspaces, and improving habitat quality. However, if a more proactive strategy is required to overcome recolonisation barriers, then reintroduction is another powerful tool to enhance biodiversity across urban landscapes. The health of cities, in terms of biodiversity, ecosystem services, and the quality of the nature experiences accessed by adults and children largely depends on how much human communities value and know about nature. While community-driven habitat restorations can improve biodiversity and increase human-nature connection, reintroduction of appropriate species could fill ecological gaps that would otherwise remain empty, and further enrich biodiversity in residents' nearby neighbourhoods. New Zealand is currently a hotspot of reintroduction activity, but these take place in relatively unmodified terrestrial sites, such as national parks, restored offshore islands, and fenced eco-sanctuaries. We review global examples of animal reintroductions taking place within areas modified by human activity, and, using information elicited from 18 experts, consider potential reintroduction candidates, and consider the benefits, opportunities, challenges, and requirements for the reintroduction of native species into New Zealand's urban areas.
... In places where humans coexisted with large predators, fear has been a predictor of negative attitudes [33] and conflicts are often described [68]. Ainsworth et al. [69] mention how social values such as emotional attachment can make a difference regarding support for the conservation of a particular species. Among our results on the advantages of lynx reintroduction, we also highlight local voices in favor of "saving the species," which echo the "deep ecology" movement or "restoring nature" philosophies [70]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background Ethnographic research can help to establish dialog between conservationists and local people in reintroduction areas. Considering that predator reintroductions may cause local resistance, we assessed attitudes of different key actor profiles to the return of the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) to Portugal before reintroduction started in 2015. We aimed to characterize a social context from an ethnoecological perspective, including factors such as local knowledge, perceptions, emotions, and opinions. Methods We conducted semi-structured interviews (n = 131) in three different protected areas and observed practices and public meetings in order to describe reintroduction contestation, emotional involvement with the species, and local perceptions about conservation. Detailed content data analysis was undertaken and an open-ended codification of citations was performed with the support of ATLAS.ti. Besides the qualitative analyses, we further explored statistic associations between knowledge and opinions and compared different geographical areas and hunters with non-hunters among key actors. ResultsLocal ecological knowledge encompassed the lynx but was not shared by the whole community. Both similarities and differences between local and scientific knowledge about the lynx were found. The discrepancies with scientific findings were not necessarily a predictor of negative attitudes towards reintroduction. Contestation issues around reintroduction differ between geographical areas but did not hinder an emotional attachment to the species and its identification as a territory emblem. Among local voices, financial compensation was significantly associated to hunters and nature tourism was cited the most frequent advantage of lynx presence. Materialistic discourses existed in parallel with non-economic factors and the existence of moral agreement with its protection.The considerable criticism and reference to restrictions by local actors concerning protected areas and conservation projects indicated the experience of an imposed model of nature conservation. Opinions about participation in the reintroduction process highlighted the need for a closer dialog between all actors and administration. Conclusions Local voices analyzed through an ethnoecological perspective provide several views on reintroduction and nature conservation. They follow two main global trends of environmental discourse: (1) nature becomes a commodified object to exploit while contestation about wildlife is centered on financial return and (2) emblematic wild species create an emotional attachment, become symbolic, and gather moral agreement for nature protection.Lynx reintroduction has been not only just a nature protection theme but also a negotiation process with administration. Western rural communities are not the “noble savages” and nature protectors as are other traditional groups, and actors tend to claim for benefits in a situation of reintroduction. Both parties comprehend a similar version of appropriated nature.Understanding complexity and diverse interests in local communities are useful in not oversimplifying local positions towards predator conservation. We recommend that professional conservation teams rethink their image among local populations and increase proximity with different types of key actors.
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The Sierra Madre Sparrow (Xenospiza baileyi) is an endemic species of Mexico that is threatened with extinction. Its distribution is reported in two areas: One in the Transvolcanic Belt of central Mexico (La Cima) near Mexico City and the other in the Sierra Madre Occidental in northwestern Mexico (Ejido Ojo de Agua El Cazador) near the city of Durango, in the state of Durango. The habitat is the same in these two areas, and consists of sub-alpine grassland that is located in shallow valleys or shallows. In our case, "El Bajío la Cantera" of approximately 55 hectares, is mostly used in rainfed agriculture, protected from livestock grazing with wire fences, which in turn represents protection for remnants of grassland where they are the birds. “El Bajío la Cantera" belongs to Ejido 12 de Mayo, Municipality of San Dimas, Durango, where 28 males were detected singing along a 500 meter transect. This finding represents the population of the healthiest Sierra Madre Sparrow currently known, so it would be necessary to document their population trend over time. This information can help to evaluate and propose the creation of a special protection area for the species that involves joint government actions and ejidatarios tending to conserve the habitat during the reproductive season in order to increase and / or maintain the size of the population.
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The Endangered Antillean manatee Trichechus manatus manatus is one of the most threatened aquatic mammal species in Mexico and the wider Caribbean region. The decline of this subspecies is mainly a result of historical exploitation and the impact of current coastal development. The conservation strategies adopted for the Antillean manatee include habitat protection, reduction of the most severe threats, and the rescue of stranded, orphaned or injured individuals and their management in captivity. This latter strategy has produced positive outcomes in some countries but has been the subject of controversy in others, including Mexico. We analyse the benefits and challenges associated with the management of captive manatees in Mexico, and the consequences of a lack of government policy and strategy for the post-rehabilitation release of individuals. We describe the evolution of this controversy from 1997–2017 in Mexico, analyse the consequences and implications for the conservation of the species, and propose an integrated management strategy that could address the issues raised. Although this strategy has been developed in the context of Mexico, it is applicable to management of this species across the Caribbean region.
Thesis
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This thesis examines relationships between people’s values, attitudes and behaviours with respect to threatened bird conservation in Australia. Three main research questions are addressed regarding: how Australians value threatened birds; who is involved in threatened bird conservation and how they communicate their values; and whether the values held for particular species of threatened birds affect the success of strategies used to conserve them. The inquiry is situated within the discipline of social psychology, social constructionism theory and the field of human dimensions of wildlife research. It is informed by Kellert and Clark’s (1991) wildlife policy framework and Kellert’s ‘attitudes towards animals typology’. An interpretive, mixed-methods approach examined values held by different sectors of Australian society. A new typology of 12 avifaunal attitudes was developed to describe the different ways Australians value birds. Three quantitative online surveys of 3,818 members of the public examined Australian attitudes towards threatened birds. Three qualitative case studies (three matched pairs) of Australian threatened birds investigated the opinions of 74 key informants about the influence of stakeholder values, and those of other sectors of society, on threatened bird conservation. Case study and survey participants commonly expressed biophysical, conservation, ecological, experiential, humanistic and moral attitudes towards threatened birds. The surveys revealed strong support for conserving threatened birds; two distinct value orientations towards threatened birds, ‘avicentrism’ and ‘anthropocentrism’, were associated with respondents’ socio-demographic characteristics. The case studies demonstrated disparity in conservation investment and prioritisation between taxa. This research demonstrates the importance of understanding how social factors influence wildlife polices and processes relating to threatened bird conservation. It highlights consequences associated with privileging scientific values in the conservation process. The findings reveal how the social constructions of threatened birds and the issues affecting them influence societal interest and conservation investment. The results provide decision-makers with insights into developing effective frames to convey a broad range of threatened bird values to policy-makers and society.
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Threatened species programs need a social license to justify public funding. A contingent valuation survey of a broadly representative sample of the Australian public found that almost two thirds (63%) supported funding of threatened bird conservation. These included 45% of a sample of 645 respondents willing to pay into a fund for threatened bird conservation, 3% who already supported bird conservation in another form, and 15% who could not afford to pay into a conservation fund but who nevertheless thought that humans have a moral obligation to protect threatened birds. Only 6% explicitly opposed such payments. Respondents were willing to pay about AUD 11 annually into a conservation fund (median value), including those who would pay nothing. Highest values were offered by young or middle aged men, and those with knowledge of birds and those with an emotional response to encountering an endangered bird. However, the prospect of a bird going extinct alarmed almost everybody, even most of those inclined to put the interests of people ahead of birds and those who resent the way threatened species sometimes hold up development. The results suggest that funding for threatened birds has widespread popular support among the Australian population. Conservatively they would be willing to pay about AUD 14 million per year, and realistically about AUD 70 million, which is substantially more than the AUD 10 million currently thought to be required to prevent Australian bird extinctions.
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Context. Aprevious study reported major declines for native mammal species from Kakadu National Park, over the period 2001-09. The extent to which this result may be symptomatic of more pervasive biodiversity decline was unknown. Aims. Our primary aim was to describe trends in the abundance of birds in Kakadu over the period 2001-09. We assessed whether any change in bird abundance was related to the arrival of invading cane toads (Rhinella marina), and to fire regimes. Methods. Birds were monitored at 136 1-ha plots in Kakadu, during the period 2001-04 and again in 2007-09. This program complemented sampling of the same plots over the same period for native mammals. Key results. In contrast to the decline reported for native mammals, the richness and total abundance of birds increased over this period, and far more individual bird species increased than decreased. Fire history in the between-sampling period had little influence on trends for individual species. Interpretation of the overall positive trends for bird species in Kakadu over this period should be tempered by recognition that most of the threatened bird species present in Kakadu were unrecorded in this monitoring program, and the two threatened species for which there were sufficient records to assess trends - partridge pigeon (Geophaps smithii) and white-throated grass-wren (Amytornis woodwardi) - both declined significantly. Conclusions. The current decline of the mammal fauna in this region is not reflected in trends for the region's bird fauna. Some of the observed changes (mostly increases) in the abundance of bird species may be due to the arrival of cane toads, and some may be due to local or regional-scale climatic variation or variation in the amount of flowering. The present study provides no assurance about threatened bird species, given that most were inadequately recorded in the study (perhaps because their decline pre-dated the present study). Implications. These contrasting trends between mammals and birds demonstrate the need for biodiversity monitoring programs to be broadly based. The declines of two threatened bird species over this period indicate the need for more management focus for these species.
Book
Recent classifications of Australian birds have been limited to lists of "species" which are inadequate as biodiversity indicators. The Directory of Australian Birds: Passerines fills a huge gap in ornithological knowledge by separating out and listing not only 340 species of song-birds but also the 720 distinct regional forms. Covering about half the national bird fauna, the Directory provides science and the community with baseline information about what bird it is and where it lives in an Australia-wide context. Identity is taken down to the level of distinct regional population. No other compendium on Australian birds does this.
Book
The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010 is the third in a series of action plans that have been produced at the start of each decade. The book analyses the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) status of all the species and subspecies of Australia's birds, including those of the offshore territories. For each bird the size and trend in their population and distribution has been analysed using the latest iteration of IUCN Red List Criteria to determine their risk of extinction. The book also provides an account of all those species and subspecies that are or are likely to be extinct. The result is the most authoritative account yet of the status of Australia's birds. In this completely revised edition each account covers not only the 2010 status but provides a retrospective assessment of the status in 1990 and 2000 based on current knowledge, taxonomic revisions and changes to the IUCN criteria, and then reasons why the status of some taxa has changed over the last two decades. Maps have been created specifically for the Action Plan based on vetted data drawn from the records of Birds Australia, its members and its partners in many government departments. This is not a book of lost causes. It is a call for action to keep the extraordinary biodiversity we have inherited and pass the legacy to our children. 2012 Whitley Award Commendation for Zoological Resource.
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Negative impacts of invasive plants or weeds on biodiversity have been well established yet their role in providing key habitats and resources for wildlife has been little understood. Weed removal thus has the potential to adversely affect wildlife but whether this is considered during weed management is poorly known. To determine the extent of this knowledge, we examined the perceptions of weed managers regarding wildlife and weed management in Victoria, Australia. We surveyed 81 weed managers of varying levels of experience from different types of organisations, including state and local government, community groups and private companies. We found 90% of managers had observed wildlife-weed interactions and that most (70%) adjusted management programmes to accommodate wildlife. Despite this, few (19%) had adopted the recommended practice of combining gradual weed removal with re-vegetation. While management programmes included monitoring of native vegetation, consideration of wildlife monitoring in weed management was rare. This highlights the need for management to better understand and respond to wildlife-weed relationships. If the improvement of wildlife habitat is included in the objectives of weed programmes, as it should be, then wildlife should also be incorporated in project monitoring. This would lead to a greater understanding of the role weeds and their management have in each situation and, ultimately, more informed decision making.
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Taxonomic bias has been documented in general science and conservation research publications. We examined whether taxonomic bias is similarly severe in actual conservation programmes as indicated by the focus of species reintroduction projects worldwide. We compiled a database of reintroduction projects worldwide, yielding a total of 699 species of plants and animals that are the focus of recent, current or planned reintroductions. Using IUCN (World Conservation Union) data for total numbers of known species worldwide, we found that vertebrate projects were over-represented with respect to their prevalence in nature. Within vertebrates, mammals and, to a lesser extent, birds, were over-represented, whereas fish were under-represented. This over-representation extended to two mammal orders, artiodactylids and carnivores, and to four bird orders, anseriforms, falconiforms, gruiforms and galliforms. For neither mammals nor birds was reintroduction project bias related to any differences between orders in vulnerability to threat. Bird species that are the focus of reintroduction efforts are more likely to be categorised as ‘Threatened’ than expected on the basis of the distribution of all known species over all threat categories, however, nearly half of all bird species being reintroduced are classified as ‘Least Concern’. The selection of candidates for reintroduction programmes is likely to consider national priorities, availability of funding and local community support, over global conservation status, While a focus on charismatic species may serve to garner public support for conservation efforts, it may also divert scarce conservation resources away from taxa more in need of attention.
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As communities continue to engage in debate surrounding land use and preservation, insight into stakeholder knowledge and concern with local species becomes increasingly important. This project explores the association between individual knowledge/concern with species diversity as related to environmental perspective, measured through the New Ecological Paradigm scale. We aim to understand whether concern with local species diversity is associated with species-specific knowledge and/or ecocentric outlooks more generally. Results from a mail survey in Boulder, CO reveal that individuals with ecocentric perspectives place greater priority on species preservation relative to those with anthropocentric perspectives, regardless of species knowledge. These results imply that to engage local publics in issues of biodiversity, outreach should not simply provide background specific to local species, but also demonstrate the significance of ecological integrity and biological diversity more broadly.