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Children Prioritize Virtual Exotic Biodiversity over Local Biodiversity

1 , 2 , * , 3 , 1

PLoS ONE

Public Library of Science

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      Abstract

      Environmental education is essential to stem current dramatic biodiversity loss, and childhood is considered as the key period for developing awareness and positive attitudes toward nature. Children are strongly influenced by the media, notably the internet, about biodiversity and conservation issues. However, most media focus on a few iconic, appealing, and usually exotic species. In addition, virtual activities are replacing field experiences. This situation may curb children knowledge and concerns about local biodiversity. Focusing our analyses on local versus exotic species, we examined the level of knowledge and the level of diversity of the animals that French schoolchildren are willing to protect, and whether these perceptions are mainly guided by information available in the internet. For that, we collected and compared two complementary data sets: 1) a questionnaire was administered to schoolchildren to assess their knowledge and consideration to protect animals, 2) an internet content analysis (i.e. Google searching sessions using keywords) was performed to assess which animals are the most often represented. Our results suggest that the knowledge of children and their consideration to protect animal are mainly limited to internet contents, represented by a few exotic and charismatic species. The identification rate of local animals by schoolchildren was meager, suggesting a worrying disconnection from their local environment. Schoolchildren were more prone to protect “virtual” (unseen, exotic) rather than local animal species. Our results reinforce the message that environmental education must also focus on outdoor activities to develop conservation consciousness and concerns about local biodiversity.

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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]Centre d'Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, CNRS-UPR 1934, Villiers en Bois, France
            [2 ]Centre de Recherche et de Conservation des Chéloniens, SOPTOM, le Village des tortues, Gonfaron, France
            [3 ]Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, United States of America
            University of Pretoria, South Africa
            Author notes

            Conceived and designed the experiments: J-MB XB. Performed the experiments: J-MB XB FB. Analyzed the data: J-MB FB XB. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: J-MB FB XB. Wrote the paper: J-MB FB XB.

            Contributors
            Role: Editor
            Journal
            PLoS One
            plos
            plosone
            PLoS ONE
            Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
            1932-6203
            2011
            4 August 2011
            : 6
            : 8
            3150400
            21829710
            PONE-D-10-05529
            10.1371/journal.pone.0023152
            (Editor)
            Ballouard et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
            Counts
            Pages: 8
            Categories
            Research Article
            Biology
            Ecology
            Biodiversity
            Conservation Science
            Environmental Protection
            Science Policy
            Science Education
            Social and Behavioral Sciences
            Communications
            Media Studies
            Science Education
            Sociology
            Social Research

            Uncategorized

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