Large carnivores and zoos as catalysts for biodiversity conservation: how do we engage the public in the protection of biodiversity?
Convened by: Adriana Consorte-McCrea, Ana Fernandez, Dennis Nigbur, Alan Bainbridge
The importance of reaching public understanding of causes and consequences of biodiversity loss has been highlighted by international agreements, yet biodiversity continues to decline. This Symposium explores approaches to managing conflict between carnivores and human populations, as well as the potential of first hand contact with large carnivores, mediated by positive messages in the zoo setting, to further support towards the conservation of biodiversity amongst the general public.
Large carnivores are considered catalysts for the conservation of biodiversity due to their charisma, their role in regulating ecosystem dynamics and their rich cultural and historical heritage (2, 3). After centuries of persecution across Europe, changes in land use and recovery of forests, recovery of carnivores’ prey base, changes in international policies and attitudes have encouraged their return to historic home ranges. Although their restoration may cause controversy amongst diverse groups as keystone species they are essential for the reestablishment and maintenance of biodiversity, and their return must be undertaken while addressing public concerns. Large carnivores are star attractions in zoos worldwide.
Zoos have also been considered as catalysts for conservation, recognised as partners by the scientific community, with a growing commitment to biodiversity (4, 5). Zoos have the potential to increase emotional connections and promote positive attitudes towards wildlife amongst visitors, which in turn facilitates greater concern towards biodiversity (6). Can increased emotional responses to large carnivores benefit public engagement in their conservation?
Our Symposium brings together varied disciplines (conservation biology, social psychology, social sciences, education) providing a rich multifaceted approach to the conservation of biodiversity, by exploring the connections between people, carnivores and zoos, within a conservation context. It aims to identify key areas for cooperation and further research to engage people in the conservation of native carnivore species, raising awareness about the crucial need of biodiversity for planetary wellbeing.
1. Consorte-McCrea, A., Bainbridge, A., Fernandez, A., Nigbur, D., McDonnell, S., Grent, O., Morin, A., (2017).
2. Linnell, J.D. C., Promberger C., Boitani L., Swenson J.E., Breitenmoser, U. and Andersen, R.,(2005).
3. Sergio, F., Newton, I., Marchesi, L., & Pedrini, P. (2006).
4. Zimmermann, A., Hatchwell, M., Dickie, L. and West, C.(eds)(2008).
5. Moss, A., Jensen, E. and Gusset, M.(2015).
6. Clayton, S., Prévot, A. C., Germain, L., & Saint‐Jalme, M. (2017).