9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN12 Environment and Society

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Nature Protection and Social Perception of Animals Building I, 1E6

Social Perceptions of Chimpanzees in Tombali (Guinea-Bissau, West Africa): a sociological contribution to chimpanzees conservation

The status attributed to different species - "good" or "bad" - can provide clues about the underlying attitudinal factors that determine this categorization and which animals could act as flag-ship species for environmental conservation purposes. As such, these sociozoologic scales can be applied to access people?s perceptions towards biodiversity. In the last decade, sociologists have been focused on Western perceptions with a lack of knowledge regarding perceptions in other societies. This presentation considers how people from Tombali (south Guinea-Bissau) perceive primates, and specifically, chimpanzees. Three hypotheses are considered: (i) A correlation between positive attitudes and edibility is expected, except for chimpanzees which are given other attributes; (ii) In general, chimpanzees are perceived as "good animals", due to their human-like affinities and appearance; (iii) Negative perceptions are due to a lack of knowledge regarding chimpanzee behaviour, as a consequence of a low number of encounters between humans and apes. A survey was conducted between February and March 2007, in Tombali. The sample included all adult inhabitants who could be contacted. Due to a lack of census information, the sample (N=257) had to be a non-probabilistic one, while age and gender were kept as balanced as possible. Photos of the Guinean fauna (n=27) were shown to subjects who were asked to rank these on adjectives such as: "good", "bad", "edible", "inedible", "pretty", "ugly", among others. Descriptive statistical analysis (cross-tabulation) and principal component analysis were applied to these rankings. In general, apart from some religious beliefs that might protect chimpanzees from poaching and bushmeat exploitation, people do not appear to be very fond of these primates. Fortunately for chimpanzees, their human resemblance have been protecting them from heavy hunting pressure. As such, chimpanzees are potentially good ambassadors for a conservation programme only if there is an understanding of why people hold negative attitudes and how to mitigate these, as found for women and some religious contexts.