K305 Alvar

Attitudes to Carnivores’ Reintroductions in the UK and the role of zoos


Adriana Consorte-McCrea
Ana Fernandez
Alan Bainbridge
Dennis Nigbur


Reintroductions may boost ecosystem function and environmental sustainability. However potential conflicts of interest suggest that the restoration of native wild carnivore species benefit from the understanding of its human dimensions. Research suggests that experiences with live animals in zoos may encourage empathy, through personal connection, which in turn facilitates greater concern towards biodiversity. During this talk we will report on phases one and two of a study that investigates attitudes towards native wild carnivores that have been considered for reintroduction in the UK. The project is being developed by a cross-disciplinary team (wildlife conservation, psychology, education). Focus groups and interviews were carried out in Kent (spring 2015) and the Scottish Highlands (spring 2016) to investigate attitudes towards biodiversity and the reintroduction of wild carnivores, with particular focus on two species native to the British Isles and currently considered for reintroduction (the European lynx Lynx lynx and the pine marten Martes martes) and the role of zoos in promoting support towards their conservation. Thematic analysis of data indicates three overarching themes: concern, motivation, and knowledge, with a fourth theme of zoos that related to all three. Amongst the findings there are suggestions that zoos may help ‘breaking down fears’, but also disparate views about the role of zoos in ‘protecting’ species. We will discuss our findings in relation to the context of place of residence and support for reintroduction. Our research aims to contribute to the design and implementation of effective conservation initiatives through an understanding of how people engage with their environment and of what makes people care.