The return of large carnivores such as wolf and lynx in the Alps leads to conflicts with the local population. In order to find ways that enable humans and large carnivores to live together and reach conservation goals, transboundary cooperation is indispensable. Various Alpine countries participate in the RowAlp-Project and cooperate to reach the three main objectives: to model potential distribution of wolf and lynx (1), to detect public tolerance mechanisms (2) and to develop management options (3).
The particular project of WSL consists of the description of factors influencing attitudes towards large carnivores.
We performed a systematic literature review with the aim to detect factors that are relevant for understanding mechanisms underlying attitudes towards large carnivores. We detected all reported factors, both influencing and not influencing. By influencing factors we recorded as well their influence direction (i.e. if the factor influences positively or negatively attitudes towards large carnivores).
In order to maximize the discovery rate of relevant publications we searched using the combination of the following keywords: attitudes, tolerance, acceptance, factor influencing on the one part and large carnivores, wolf (Canis lupus), lynx (Lynx lynx) or bear (Ursus arctos) on the other. We used the following methods to generate the sample:
- Computerised searches of online database (e.g. Google Scholar, Web of Sciences).
- Specific homepages about large carnivores research in Europe were revised (e.g. Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe, KORA, WWF, NINA).
- References of included studies were analysed for inclusion.
Study eligibility criteria
A great amount of publications were taken in consideration and more than 100 were categorized, thereof 72 were found eligible for the review. Eligibility criteria were based on the following points:
- Language (at least abstract in English, German, Italian, French or Spanish)
- Subject (publication should deal with attitudes towards large carnivores, also in a broader sense, AND report factors that do or do not influence attitudes towards large carnivores)
- Species (study about bear, lynx, wolf or large carnivores considered as a whole entity)
- Publication's type (publication should report scientific results)
- Time frame (studies published in the time frame of 1990-2012)
- Study area (Studies conducted in European countries)
A total of 72 publications were considered as main study unit and all in all 253 influencing factors and 50 not influencing factors were reported.
Analyzing the influencing factors we found both consistent (i.e. factors that mostly have the same effect direction on attitudes) as well as inconsistent results (i.e. different effect directions among the studies) conceding the factor direction.
Summing up we found strong evidence suggesting that the following factors do influence attitudes towards large carnivores:
- belonging to a stakeholder group
- core/control areas
Whereas these factors show contrasting results:
- socio-demography (except age)
- social-status (except education)
This study tried to synthesise results from different publications concerning factors influencing attitudes towards large carnivores, documenting trends that in the past have been only intuitively perceptible. The main unit of publications is highly heterogeneous what hamper to draw general conclusions. Nevertheless this study outlines some important findings that can help future research and support management options.
For a better understanding of attitudes towards large carnivores it seems pertinent to consider other constructs and not to focus too much on socio-demography.
Publishing not significant results isn’t usually really appealing neither for researchers nor for editors. We however believe that reporting not influencing factors would help to get a more accurate view of the topic.