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Journal Article

Assessing attitudes towards gorilla conservation via employee interviews


Robbins,  Martha M.       
Gorillas, Department of Primatology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Robbins, M. M. (2021). Assessing attitudes towards gorilla conservation via employee interviews. American Journal of Primatology, 83(4): e23191. doi:10.1002/ajp.23191.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-0F71-A
Abstract To determine the effectiveness of conservation strategies, not only should we monitor biological variables, such as population size and levels of illegal activity, but also we should examine changes in attitudes and behavior of local community members. Here, I use semistructured interviews of employees at two field sites, in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda and Loango National Park, Gabon, to understand if their employment influenced their attitude towards gorillas and conservation and led to behavior change. In contrast to western views of gorillas as “gentle giants,” staff viewed gorillas as dangerous animals before working for these projects. Overall, employment leads to viewing conservation and gorillas more positively, and in many cases, viewing the gorillas as kin. The most common value attributed to the gorillas was economic, yet intrinsic and non-use existence values were frequently mentioned. Loango staff, but not Bwindi staff, reported behavior change related to hunting and bushmeat consumption, which likely is related to bushmeat consumption being commonplace in Gabon but not in Uganda. The Bwindi staff seemed to have a more positive and broader outlook toward conservation than the Loango staff, possibly because they had more years of formal education, they worked with gorillas longer, there is more history of conservation activities in Bwindi, and/or they have been less directly affected by negative consequences of conservation (e.g., crop raiding). This study shows the importance of explaining that gorillas are not dangerous if not provoked and using their human-like characteristics as a means to change conservation values and interest of local communities, while concurrently recognizing that providing economic benefits and reducing negative effects of wildlife are a reality for conservation buy-in.