Photo credit: Emu-Felicitas Ostermann-Miyashita

By Emu-Felicitas Ostermann-Miyashita, Hannes König, Nadja Pernat, Sonoko Dorothea Bellingrath-Kimura, Sophia Hibler, and Christian Kiffner.

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European bison (Bison bonasus), moose (Alces alces) and gray wolf (Canis lupus) have recently returned or are in the process of returning to Germany. While this is embraced by some, it also holds potential for human-wildlife conflicts in the modern landscape. Involving citizens for monitoring these species could be a promising avenue to support management of these species, yet requires knowledge and willingness. To identify sociodemographic variables affecting knowledge of the species and participants willingness to engage in conservation related activities, we conducted a survey in two wildlife parks located in different states of Germany.

Generally, people knew more about wolves than bison or moose, which possibly reflects their relative abundance and perceived presence in people’s minds. The location of the wildlife park mediated knowledge of bison and moose, likely reflecting both park characteristics (one of the parks is dedicated to bison conservation) and potential exposure to free-ranging individuals of the target species (moose are present in the vicinity of one park but not the other). People residing in rural areas had significantly higher knowledge about the moose compared to urban residents. None of the sociodemographic variables selected in this study affected the knowledge about wolves.

Younger people (especially aged 24 and younger) as well as people with higher knowledge scores were particularly willing to participate in conservation related activities for the target species. While specific knowledge about wildlife is difficult to predict, our results suggest that greater wildlife knowledge increases citizen’s willingness to engage in wildlife sciences. As wildlife parks facilitate environmental education and likely attract people with environmental affinity, these facilities have great potential for engaging citizens in wildlife research.