Nicolette LOO, Bachelor of Environmental Studies student – AY 2016/17
How well do NUS students know wildlife and which species do they prioritise for conservation?
In 1968, Baba Dioum famously said “In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught.” Meaning, humans are more likely to like and care about things we’re familiar with, and these preferences dictate which species we prioritise for conservation.
In 1975, Robert Pyle, a lepidopterist, coined the term ‘extinction of experience’ to describe humanity’s growing disconnect from Nature and apathy about its worth – a phenomenon he linked to urbanisation. If Baba Dioum’s quote reflects reality (and it may, given the emphasis on protecting flagship species), then we expect any extinction of experience to erode support for conservation.
To Nicolette, Singapore (SG), with its high biodiversity, but 100 % urbanisation rate (all residents are urbanites) seemed like a good location to assess the link between knowledge of animals and concern for their conservation. She was inspired by this study of French children, who prioritised conserving exotic species over local species, regardless of true extinction risk. She recruited 300 of her NUS peers, and asked them questions to assess the following: