Abstract # 1837 Event # 118:

Scheduled for Friday, August 18, 2006 09:40 AM-10:10 AM: Session 11 (Regency East #3) Oral Presentation


APPEALING TO HEARTS AND MINDS: SILKY SIFAKA (PROPITHECUS CANDIDUS) CONSERVATION EDUCATION IN NORTH-EASTERN MADAGASCAR

E. R. Patel
Cornell University, Department of Psychology, Behavioral and Evolutionary Neuroscience Division, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
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     Silky sifakas, a relatively new primate species, are one of the top 25 most endangered primates, and one of the 4 most critically endangered lemurs out of over 60 total lemur taxa. Their major conservation threats include human hunting for delicacy food as well as habitat loss from slash-and-burn agriculture and fuel wood logging. In a variety of animals, conservation education programs have resulted in some documented successes, including increases in pro-conservation attitudes (Weber, 1995), visual recognition (Dietz and Nagagata, 1995), and even actual population size (Blanchard, 1995). A two-pronged strategy towards silky sifaka conservation education was adopted in local villages adjacent to its remaining protected areas. The cognitive component aimed to increase awareness and knowledge through radio interviews, multi-speaker slide presentations, and literature disbursement in 12 primary and secondary schools. The emotional component aimed to associate silky sifaka conservation with positive emotional experiences culminating in psychological attachment to these visually stunning lemurs. Towards this end, four groups of children (n=55) were chaperoned on free 3 day educational eco-tours within Marojejy National Park, Madagascar. Habituated study groups of silky sifakas were located and followed for at least 1 full day. The reactions of the children to close range observations of wild silky sifakas were overwhelmingly positive and empathic. This project was partially supported by a Conservation Small Grant from the American Society of Primatologists.