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Colby College. Environmental Studies Program


The value of traditional ecological knowledge for biodiversity research and conservation is widely recognized. The value of wildlife knowledge provided by recent migrants is less clear. Photographs of 10 mammal species were shown to 622 individuals in communities near Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra, Indonesia, to assess wildlife knowledge among recent migrants and to identify socio-economic variables that can be used to identify more knowledgeable informants. Knowledge scores were categorized by taxonomic family, genus and species. Large, charismatic and abundant animals were identified more frequently than smaller and more secretive animals. Higher knowledge scores were significantly associated with males, higher educational attainment and past experience with these animals. Number of years respondents had lived in the area and respondent age were also good predictors of higher scores. The characteristics of animals that were likely to be identified more accurately were assessed. Generic terms used to describe animals can confound individual responses. Biodiversity research, conservation and education programmes frequently rely on ‘local’ knowledge to inform management and policy. This information can be a valuable addition to field-based efforts to identify the distribution and abundance of rare endangered species. With more and more migrants living near the world’s wildlife protected areas, care must be taken to understand how human demographic shifts may affect such studies.



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