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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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   Table of Contents - Current issue
July-September 2022
Volume 20 | Issue 3
Page Nos. 195-282

Online since Wednesday, August 3, 2022

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Altmetric Scores in Conservation Science have Gender and Regional Biases p. 195
Colin A Chapman, Claire A Hemingway, Dipto Sarkar, Jan F Gogarten, Nils Chr. Stenseth
There is a growing view in conservation science that traditional ways to evaluate publications, researchers, and projects are too slow. This has led to a rise in the use of altmetrics, which are metrics based on social media data, news pieces, blogs, and more. Here we examine altmetric data linked to nearly 10,000 papers published in 23 conservation journals, exploring five issues that represent some of the challenges associated with using social media data in evaluating conservation. We discuss whether social media activity reflects meaningful engagement, and how easily individuals can manipulate scores by using bots or simply through active personal networks or institutional promotion services. Our analysis shows a highly skewed distribution of altmetric scores where most papers have such low scores that the scores likely convey little meaningful information. Examining scores that would be considered meritorious, we find that papers where the first author was male have higher scores than papers led by a woman, suggesting a gender bias in altmetric scores. Finally, this data set reveals regional differences that correspond with access to different social media platforms. Metrics, like altmetrics, may have a role to play when making rapid evaluations. However, such metrics should only be used after careful deliberation and should not be influenced by institutions looking for shortcuts, by companies looking to advance profits, or by individuals seeking to promote themselves, rather than generating meaningful engagement in scholarship and conservation action. Scholarly and conservation activities should be judged on the quality of their contributions, which will require the input of experts and direct contact with impacted communities.
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The Role of Government in a Partial Transition from Public to Private in the Expanding Australian Protected Area System p. 201
Jamie B Kirkpatrick, Julie Fielder, Aidan Davison, Lilian M Pearce, Benjamin Cooke
Since the 1980s in democratic societies, neoliberal reforms and neofeudal governance have transferred the delivery of many public goods and services from governments to non-government actors. Privatisation is a core neoliberal agenda, but little is known of the nature and extent of its application to nature conservation through reservation. We investigate the degree of privatisation of the expanding protected area system in our case study areas of Australia and Tasmania, hypothesising that governments have: disrupted public agencies managing the protected area estate by repeated reorganisation; diverted public funds from public to private protected areas; and increasingly alienated public reserves for subsidised private profit from tourism. We found frequent restructuring of agencies managing protected areas. Although Federal Government expenditure on private reserves increased markedly in the twenty-first century, so did expenditure on public conservation reserves. All States except Queensland increased public protected area funding. Direct subsidisation of private reserves by government has not had a steady upward trajectory. In contrast, subsidisation of private alienation of public conservation reserves for tourism may have accelerated in the twenty-first century. We conclude that, while Australian governments see value in protected areas as a source of economic development and electoral advantage, they are agnostic on ownership.
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The Small British Cat Debate: Conservation Non-Issues and The (Im)mobility of Wildlife Controversies p. 211
Alexandra Palmer
This article examines why cat predation is not on the agenda for most UK-focused conservation NGOs. Drawing on interviews and an analysis of scientific literatures and social media, I show that there are genuine epistemic uncertainties about whether cat predation presents a widespread conservation problem in the UK. This means that characterising NGOs' position as science denialism is unjustified. However, I argue that NGOs may wish to avoid looking into the issue too closely, due to a belief that the matter is irresolvable: a view founded on assumptions about what the British public thinks, and what politicians think the public thinks. Finally, I show that while there is little fighting about cats between conservationists and cat advocates, cats are readily 'grafted' onto existing disagreements about gamekeeping and predator control. I conclude that the small British cat debate is unlikely to get any bigger in future, and that the case illustrates the importance of bringing together social science literatures on NGO politics, science and technology, and human-animal relationships when seeking to understand 'issue creation' by conservation NGOs. Furthermore, it highlights the need to attend to local cultures, practices, and ecologies rather than assuming that issues will translate across contexts.
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The Biopolitics of (English) Rewilding p. 222
Virginia Thomas
Even 'hands off' approaches to conservation such as rewilding are intimately, sometimes violently, involved in the lives and deaths of the other-than-human species they seek to protect. Foucauldian biopolitics, with its exploration of the regulation of life and death, is increasingly being used to examine the control of other-than-human species. This article extends the work of other scholars by applying the concept of biopolitics to rewilding in England. A comparative case study of two rewilding sites (the Avalon Marshes in Somerset and Wild Ennerdale in Cumbria) identified common modes of biopolitics operating at both sites. These modes were animals/species as: expendable objects, machines/human proxies, analogues, and self-determining agents, all of which 'allowed' different levels of agency for the species concerned. Given that field sites were purposively selected to display contrasting contexts it is possible to extrapolate from the Avalon Marshes and Wild Ennerdale and propose that these biopolitical modes are operating at other English rewilding sites.
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The ‘Fluid Landscape’ of the Sundarbans: Critically Reviewing the ‘Managed Retreat’ Discourse p. 234
Prama Mukhopadhyay
The Sundarbans, spread across 10,200 sq. km in the lower deltaic region of Bengal, is the world's largest pro-grading delta. Most climatologists acknowledge that this fragile ecosystem, cutting across Bangladesh and India, will bear the brunt of climate change. It is estimated that the region, facing sea level rise and intensification of cyclonic activities, will experience the disastrous effects of global warming; and scientists have been expressing their concerns about the viability of human settlements there in the foreseeable future. In India, some researchers have floated the idea of 'Managed Retreat' of people from certain areas of the deltaic floodplains in a bid to 'conserve the mangroves and the ecosystem' of the Sundarbans. This postulation, first published as the Delta Vision: 2050 for the World-Wide-Fund for Nature India (WWF-India) in 2011, and discussed in the following years, in various platforms and research journals, has been advocating a 'phased and systematic outmigration' (Ghosh 2012) from the region, citing the 'Dutch Room for River' project as an exemplary ideal to be mirrored. This article will try to unpack the impact of this proposal on the local communities, living in tandem with the deltaic landscape for generations, if such a strategy is adopted.
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Patterning Conservation Flows: How Formal and Informal Networks Shape Transnational Conservation Practice p. 245
Joel Persson, Siyu Qin, Julie G Zaehringer
Conservation Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are crucial actors in global conservation governance. They shape resource flows, establish cross-sector and cross-scale networks, and influence conservation discourses and practices. While research on conservation NGOs is growing, less attention has been paid to how conservation NGOs structure their networks. In this article, we interrogate the interpersonal social relationships that underpin the organisational dynamics of conservation NGOs engaged in transnational activities. Drawing on 45 semi-structured interviews with conservation professionals at NGOs based in Cambridge (UK), Bangkok (Thailand), and Vientiane (Lao PDR), we sketch two parallel and interacting dimensions: (a) the bureaucratic and institutional infrastructures that condition conservation flows and actor interactions; and (b) the interpersonal social relationships that pattern conservation flows between distant places and actors. We illustrate how such relationships are important for managing activities, responding to unexpected and unforeseen events, capitalising on funding opportunities by quickly mobilising an existing network, integrating new actors into project activities, enhancing cross-sector dialogues to mainstream biodiversity conservation, and accessing and influencing funders. Social relationships serve a crucial function due to the uncertain conditions in which conservation NGOs operate. Our results point to an important dimension of exclusion in transnational conservation networks.
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Dewilding ‘Wolf-land’: Exploring the Historical Dimensions of Human-Wildlife Conflict and Coexistence in Ireland Highly accessed article p. 257
Dara Sands
Fostering coexistence between people and wildlife is crucial to both the conservation and restoration of wildlife populations across the globe. Yet, so far research exploring human-wildlife conflict and coexistence has been largely ahistorical, with little focus on the historical trajectories through which human-wildlife interactions have shifted from coexistence to conflicts which have led to wildlife eradication in the past. This paper responds by examining the historical drivers of change which disrupted a long history of human-wolf coexistence in Ireland. Drawing on an extensive review of primary historical sources and secondary literature and applying analytical tools from environmental history, the paper first illustrates the diverse practices and attitudes which helped sustain a continuous period of coexistence up to the seventeenth century. The paper then illustrates how coexistence unravelled during the early modern period following the island's integration into an expanding global capitalist system under a colonial regime who redefined Ireland as a primitive 'Wolf-land'. By engaging with the historical dimensions of human-wildlife interactions and drawing attention to how wildlife has become enrolled in past social conflicts, the article highlights the importance of historical perspectives for informing current strategies aimed at positively transforming human-wildlife conflict towards inclusive and socially just forms of coexistence. Abstract in Irish: https://bit.ly/33kuqHY
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Conservation Social Scientists in Transnational Institutions: Negotiating Hierarchies of Expertise p. 268
C Anne Claus
For decades, social scientists have been advocating for more social science in transnational conservation. Yet they confront considerable structural and epistemological challenges as they integrate in the organisations that hire them, since they face dual challenges of being numerical minorities and occupying low rungs on environmentalist knowledge hierarchies. This article analyses the labour of conservation social scientists employed in transnational non-governmental organisations (NGOs) through the lenses of interdisciplinarity and expertise to elucidate how they attempt to effect changes in their institutions. Conservation social scientists find themselves collaborating in asymmetrical interdisciplinarity and, therefore, they engage in extra hidden labour as they seek to disrupt hegemonic ways of conceptualising and practising conservation. These findings suggest that institutions must continue to make more meaningful bureaucratic, structural, and ideological changes if they truly aim to 'mainstream' the human dimensions of conservation.
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Biocultural approaches could aid convivial conservation p. 278
Mark R Herse
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Tigers are Our Brothers: Anthropology of Wildlife Conservation in Northeast India p. 280
Anirban Datta-Roy
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