Understanding human attitudes towards bats and the role of information and aesthetics to boost a positive response as a conservation tool

Resumen:
An understanding of human attitudes towards wildlife can be an essential element in the success or failure of a conservation initiative, policy or practice and represents one of the main conservation problems for wildlife species. Despite the ecosystem services bats provide, they often are a socially stigmatized group, misperceived and even hunted. This problem has been on the increase as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. We examined how aesthetic appeal and informational factors could influence human attitudes towards bats in a survey of 1966 participants from Spanish-speaking countries. Gender, educational level, religiousness and previous experiences with bats were relevant variables to understand attitudes towards them. The results indicate that both aesthetic and informational stimuli increase the positive responses, reducing the negatives on the participants' attitudes. Our results show the importance of public attitudes to achieve conservation goals, especially in the context of human-wildlife conflict. Bats are not charismatic animals and are still surrounded in mystery; however, our findings could benefit bat conservation plans, allowing the development of new communication strategies both locally and nationally and increasing public acceptance that will facilitate bat conservation.

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