Environmental conservation depends, to a large degree, on public acceptance. Understanding people’s opinions on ecosystems and wildlife can be very helpful in designing programs that aim to benefit both the environment and society. A new study, published in Tropical Conservation Science, interviewed organic shade-coffee farmers in Cuetzalan, Mexico, to understand how they perceive the wild animals that live in their fields, as well as their knowledge of the ecological roles these species play in maintaining ecosystem services.
The researchers — including Paulina López-del-Toro, Ellen Andresen, and Alejandro Estrada of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and Laura Barraza of Australia’s Deakin University, found that birds are perceived as useful and agreeable animals, snakes are seen as dangerous but useful, bats are considered of no use and even damaging, while many non-flying mammals are perceived with indifference. The lack of recognition of the importance of bats and non-flying mammals in the maintaining of a healthy environment was of concern to the researchers, who recommend that environmental education programs include specific information on the importance of wildlife for the environment.
López-del-Toro, P., Andresen, E., Barraza, L. and Estrada, A. 2009. Attitudes and knowledge of shade coffee
farmers towards vertebrates and their ecological functions. Tropical Conservation Science Vol.2 (3):299-318