Australian Tropical Reptile Species: Ecological Status, Public Valuation and Attitudes to their Conservation and Commercial Use
Five species of reptiles present in tropical Australia are considered in this study. These are the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata); the northern long-necked turtle (Chelodina rugosa); the taipan snake (Oxyuranus scutellatus); the freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus johnstoni); and the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). Background information is provided on the ecological status of each of these species and after outlining their human use (including commercial use) and management in Australia, an experimental survey method is introduced and results from its application are reported and analysed. The survey method involves two serial surveys of a sample of 204 Brisbane (Australia) residents. The first survey is based on the initial knowledge of the respondents of the reptile species and for the subsequent survey the knowledge available to participants about these species is experimentally increased. These surveys provide information on the amount of knowledge possessed by this sample of the public about the relevant reptile species, the respondents’ attitudes to these species (including their attitudes to commercial use), respondents’ support for the survival of these reptiles and for their conservation. Furthermore, data is gathered from the surveys on the comparative amount respondents’ state they would be prepared to contribute to support the conservation of each of these focal reptile species. Respondents are asked to assume that they are given $1,000 and that this can only be allocated to the conservation of these reptiles. Later, however, they are also given the option to donate this money to any charity concerned with human welfare. The contingent valuation data for each of the reptile species are used to isolate factors that influence the comparative allocation of conservation funds to each of the relevant reptile species. Factors considered include the extent of the respondents’ knowledge of the species, the stated degree to which respondents’ reported that they liked or disliked the species, and ethical views of the respondents. Implications of the findings for the theory of economic valuation of wildlife species and for of the focal reptile species in Australia are discussed in concluding this chapter.
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