Rumours about wildlife pest introductions: European rabbits in Spain
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Rumours associated with wildlife are frequent, although they have received little attention in the scientific literature. Studying rumours is important because of their relevance not only in a broad theoretical sense but also in environmental management. The goal of this study is to explore the complexity of the relationships between humans and wildlife through a thematic analysis of rumours associated with allegedly introduced European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) that cause crop damage in Spain. For this purpose, potential rumours were identified using the Google search engine. Data analysis consisted of reading and re-reading Web-based texts to identify main themes, ideas and topics with the assistance of NVivo 10 software. The analysis identified three main themes: (1) the reviewed websites referred to allegedly introduced rabbits which differed from native rabbits; (2) differences were based on alleged observations of unnatural behaviour, physiology or physical appearance of introduced rabbits; (3) rumours were frequently used in the context of the rabbit management conflict; e.g. farmers accused hunters of releasing harmful rabbits. This study suggests that the analysis of wildlife-release rumours sheds light on the position of parties involved in conflicts associated with the (alleged) introduction of wildlife species. It stresses the importance of rumours in conservation and environmental management, and opens the door to future research.
KeywordsConflict Farming Human dimension of wildlife Hunting Pest species Thematic analysis
I thank Dr Rafael Villafuerte, Erik Andersson, A. Jasmyn J. Lynch and one anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on previous drafts of the manuscript and all the colleagues who provided me some key references for this study. Discussions with colleagues in my research group helped define and redefine codes as well as identify main themes. This project was supported by the Talentia Postdoc Program launched by the Andalusian Knowledge Agency, and co-funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program, Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (COFUND—Grant Agreement n267226) and the Ministry of Economy, Innovation, Science and Employment of the Junta de Andalucía. I am currently supported by V Plan Propio de Investigación of the University of Sevilla.
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