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Attitudes towards European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in farmland areas within Spain

AuthorsDelibes-Mateos, Miguel ; Ruiz Ruiz, Jorge ; Arroyo, Beatriz ; Redpath, Steve; Garrido, Fernando ; Moyano Estrada, Eduardo ; Villafuerte, Rafael
Issue Date2018
CitationPathways Europe (2018)
AbstractConflicts over the management of wildlife have notably increased during the last decades, and constitute an important risk for wildlife species conservation. The human dimension of such conflicts has received little attention by researchers to date, although it is increasingly acknowledged that understanding stakeholders¿ views and attitudes is essential to mitigate such conflicts. In Spain, the management of European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is usually conflictive as this native lagomorph plays several different, contrasting roles. On one hand, European rabbits are one of the main small game species; ~6 million rabbits are hunted annually. On the other hand, they are a multifunctional keystone species, acting as ecosystem engineer and serving as prey for 40 predator species, including some of conservation concern. In addition, rabbits cause intensive crop damage in some farmland areas. In this context, the interests of stakeholders involved in the management of rabbit populations are often opposite. For instance, farmers generally aim to eradicate rabbits to reduce crop damage, while hunters intend to boost rabbit numbers to increase game availability. In this study, our main aim was to assess the attitudes of different stakeholders towards the management of European rabbits in Spanish farmland areas. To achieve this goal, we conducted personal in depth interviews with farmers (n=6), hunters (n=6) and people from governmental agencies responsible for environmental and farming management (n=11) in two distant study areas (south and north-eastern Spain), in which notable rabbit damage to crops had been reported. Beside this, 3 focus groups with hunters and 3 with farmers were conducted in the study areas. Interviews and focus groups were digitally recorded and transcribed into text material. Data analysis consisted of reading and re-reading text material to identify main themes, ideas and topics. According to our results, most participants agreed that in the past there were tensions between stakeholders about crop damage caused by rabbits. Most of them perceived that this conflict has been reduced recently, mainly as a consequence of the decline in rabbit numbers (and therefore crop damage) caused by rabbit diseases. Nevertheless, it was often believed that the problem will come back again in the future, and therefore tensions were somehow latent. In general, clashes took place between farmers and hunters and the former and policy makers, depending on the study area. In addition, there were many references along the interviews and focus groups to the perceived inefficacy of the current management system, which is based on hunting, to control rabbits and their damage. The qualitative thematic approach used in this study is very useful to describe stakeholders' attitude towards wildlife. Overall, our findings suggest that it is essential bringing all the stakeholders together to find solutions for rabbit damage that are acceptable to all parties. In this sense, new approaches to manage rabbit damage should be explored, and ideally this should be done with the participation of all involved stakeholders.
DescriptionTrabajo presentado a la Conferencia Pathways Europe: "Human Dimensions of Wildlife: Resurrecting the Wild?", celebrada en Goslar (Alemania) del 16 al 19 de septiembre de 2018.
Appears in Collections:(IREC) Comunicaciones congresos
(IESA) Comunicaciones congresos
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