Dominant attitudes and values toward wildlife and the environment in coastal Alabama

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Conservation Science and Practice


Surveys assessing attitudes and values about the environment can help predict human behavior toward wildlife and develop effective conservation goals alongside local communities. Coastal Alabama, in the southeastern United States, is a hotspot for biodiversity and endemism and needs protection. Land and wildlife management practices in Alabama have moved from indigenous-led, which is more in harmony with the environment, to larger-scale exploitative uses for agriculture and plantations. We therefore predicted that a large proportion of the population has a dominant view of the environment in which land and wildlife are primarily for human benefit. To test this hypothesis, we surveyed over 1300 residents in Mobile and Baldwin counties—the two southernmost counties in Alabama—to assess attitudes toward local vertebrate wildlife, knowledge of the region's biodiversity, and whether individuals value protected areas where they live and/or work. As hunting is generally considered a dominant behavior, we used self-identified hunters versus non-hunters to examine the relationship between humans and the environment. Overall, hunters would kill or kill to eat more often than non-hunters, and would kill even when it is not for food. Furthermore, regardless of hunting status, most participants in our survey would kill a snake, indicating that targeted environmental education is needed for this group. Both hunters and non-hunters, independently of demographic differences including education and income levels, were not familiar with the especially rich biodiversity of the area and would not be willing to invest money to protect it. Our results indicate that targeted education about the unique and rich biodiversity of southern Alabama compared to the rest of the United States is needed to support successful environmental management, conservation actions, and local participation.


Psychological Science

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