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Dimensions of local public attitudes towards invasive species management in protected areas
- Ford-Thompson, Adriana E. S., Snell, Carolyn, Saunders, Glen, White, Piran C. L.
- Wildlife research 2015 v.42 no.1 pp. 60-74
- Rusa timorensis, animal welfare, case studies, conservation areas, deer, humans, interviews, introduced species, invasive species, national parks, public opinion, qualitative analysis, questionnaires, stakeholders, wildlife management
- Context Invasive species management is often a source of contention; therefore, understanding human dimensions is viewed increasingly as critical for management success. Aims Using invasive Javan rusa deer (Cervus timorensis) in the Royal National Park (RNP), Sydney, as a case study, we sought to identify key dimensions of local public attitudes towards deer and associated management interventions, to identify the most divisive issues, and to assess the influence of experiences on attitudes. Methods We used a mixed-methods approach, using a questionnaire targeted at residents closest to the border of the RNP (n=406, 30% response rate). The potential for conflict index (PCI2) was used to analyse 32 framing statements, generated through in-depth interviews with 18 key stakeholders from a range of stakeholder groups (e.g. conservation, hunting, animal welfare). We also tested for significant differences in attitudes between those who had or had not experienced deer impacts or received information on deer management. We conducted qualitative analysis of open comments to identify emergent themes and develop an attitudes framework. Key results We identified three overarching dimensions to local attitudes, namely, stakeholder, wildlife and management dimensions, each consisting of key themes and issues, forming the attitudes framework. The most divisive issues based on PCI2 analysis related to deer remaining in the park (PCI2=0.626), the heritage value of deer (PCI2=0.626), the need to remove deer (PCI2=0.531) and the need to kill non-natives in national parks (PCI2=0.535). Experience of deer–vehicle collisions and property damage were associated with significantly more negative attitudes towards deer and non-native species and more trust in ecological evidence (P<0.001), whereas positive experience of deer had the opposite effect (P<0.001). These experiences were also associated with attitudes towards aerial shooting (P<0.05) but not hunting. Receiving information improved trust in ecological evidence and decreased belief in heritage value of deer (P<0.05). Conclusions Attitudes of the local public were varied and complex; however, a mixed-methods bottom-up approach allowed us to identify specific key issues of divisiveness and make management recommendations. Implications The framework and analysis have the potential to facilitate conflict mitigation and develop invasive species management strategies that are inclusive of the local community.