Engel, M. T., Vaske, J. J., Marchini, S., & Bath, A. J. (2017). Knowledge about big cats matters: Insights for conservationists and managers. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 41(3), 398–404.
Jaguars (Panthera onca) and pumas (Puma concolor) are declining in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest because of anthropogenic threats (e.g., habitat loss, depletion of prey, human persecution). We assessed the influence of local people’s factual knowledge about jaguars and pumas on fear of these big cats, attitudes toward big cats, and the acceptability of big cats. We also examined the influence of demographics (i.e., age, gender) on knowledge. We collected data from 326 rural residents adjacent to 2 protected areas located in a pristine fragment of the Atlantic Forest: Alto do Ribeira State Park and Intervales State Park. Although factual knowledge did not influence attitudes, knowledge was related to fear of big cats and acceptability of these species in the wild. Individuals that were more knowledgeable about big cats were less afraid and more tolerant of jaguars and pumas. Males and adults were more knowledgeable about big cats than were females and younger individuals. Our findings provide evidence that local knowledge can affect tolerance for big cats in the region and potentially reduce people–big cat conflict. Our findings also suggest that conservation efforts should focus on women and youth.
© 2017 The Wildlife Society.