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Holding up a mirror to the society: Children recognize exotic species much more than local ones

AuthorsGenovart, Meritxell ; Tavecchia, Giacomo ; Enseñat, Juan José ; Laiolo, Paola
Issue Date2013
CitationBiological Conservation 159: 484-489 (2013)
AbstractFrom childhood to adulthood we receive a lot of information on animal key species with a high charismatic value. Flagships species are also frequently used to raise awareness, stimulate conservation and to increase political support for conservation issues. Since flagship species do not, in many cases, represent the local ecological community, there is the risk that exotic species are more readily identified than local ones and this could be problematic, as knowledge is critical to promote conservation. Conservation is especially crucial on islands, where populations may be more prone to extinctions than in the mainland, and where isolation may favor endemism. To test the hypothesis that exotic species are better known than local ones, we surveyed high school children in the Balearic Islands, a biodiversity hot spot for conservation priorities. We quantified children's knowledge of native and exotic vertebrate groups by using a computer-aided multiple choices questionnaire. We found that exotic species are better known than local fauna, even when local fauna is broadly common or of greater conservation concern. We also found strong differences in knowledge between different vertebrate groups: the best known were mammals whereas fishes were the least known. Surprisingly, even if less known than mammals, local amphibians and reptiles were better known than exotic ones. Children's poor knowledge on the local fauna in relation to other exotic vertebrates may lead them to associate wildlife and its conservation with exotic species. We suggest increasing efforts on environmental education and focussing on direct experience of children in their local environment to increase their knowledge of the local fauna, and engage their interest in their own natural world. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2012.10.028
issn: 0006-3207
Appears in Collections:(IMEDEA) Artículos
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