Sunday, 25 August 2013

Relating Animals to Humans Could Help Conservation Projects

Aug. 22, 2013 — New research by conservationists at the universities of Kent, Oxford, Columbia (USA) and Monash (Australia) suggests that people's tendency to relate more to animals that bear a resemblance to humans (anthropomorphism) could help improve public engagement with conservation projects.

In a paper published by the journal Biodiversity Conservation, the researchers also suggest that anthropomorphism is overlooked as a powerful tool for promoting low-profile species that are either endangered or require urgent attention.

At present, anthropomorphism in conservation is limited to social, intelligent animals, such as chimpanzees, polar bears and dolphins. According to the research, this would imply that other species are not worthy of conservation because they are not like humans in the 'right' ways.

However, by making conservationists more aware of how people construct anthropomorphic meanings around species and how they engage with species and attribute value to their characteristics -- e.g. people may attribute personhood or emotions to species that they play with, such as pets or even livestock -- they can create conservation programmes which speak to people through their cultural expectations and emotional connections.

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