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Eco-xenophobia among rural populations: the Great-tailed Grackle as a contested species in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Dinat, Deena, Echeverri, Alejandra, Chapman, Mollie, Karp, Daniel S., Satterfield, Terre
Human dimensions of wildlife 2019 v.24 no.4 pp. 332-348
Quiscalus mexicanus, birds, farmers, interviews, livelihood, wildlife management, Costa Rica
The meanings attached to animals speak to context-specific socio-political differences that are crucial to the success of conservation and wildlife management programs. The social construction of animals, however, remains underrepresented in wildlife management scholarship and practice. We conducted 31 semi-structured interviews with farmers and urbanites, and analyzed the case of the Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. People had negative perceptions of this species that revealed three themes about its labeling: (a) the bird as foreign; (b) the bird as a threat to livelihoods, the nation, and other species; and (c) the bird as a criminal. We have identified this phenomenon as an example of eco-xenophobia, which describes how non-human species come to be classified as foreign or as “other” and not the “rightful” occupants of a territory. We concluded that the narratives associated with animals cannot be ignored, especially when species become focal in wildlife management and conservation efforts.