8.4

CAN RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION INTERFER WITH PERCEPTIONS AND ATTITUDES TOWARDS WILDLIFE? THE CASE OF CANTANHEZ FOREST NATIONAL PARK, GUINEA-BISSAU REPUBLIC

C. Casanova
CAPP (Centro de Administração e Políticas Públicas)
Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas
ccasanova@iscsp.utl.pt
C. Sousa
CRIA (Centro em Rede de Investigação em Antropologia)
Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas
csousa@fcsh.unl.pt
S. Costa
CAPP (Centro de Administração e Políticas Públicas)
Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas
susanagkosta@gmail.com

As human population grows and globalization disrupts local and traditional communities everywhere in the planet, there are stronger and wider threats to wildlife and biodiversity. In spite of all the humanity’s achievements, difficulties in providing well-being to many human communities are increasing. The world’s natural forests, whose rich ecosystems support wildlife and human populations, are declining and facing unprecedented changes.
Perceptions and attitudes towards wildlife and biodiversity are also culturally constructed and it is important to known these so that environmental national action plans may be feasible and reliable.
An attitude can be seen as a relatively enduring organization of beliefs about an object or a situation predisposing one to respond favourably or unfavourably to a commodity, person, institution or event. Hence, attitude is an antecedent or determinant of behaviour. And, ultimately, it will be people’s behaviour who will determine the survival of wildlife and the forests.
Positive attitudes towards nature may work as a good indicator for wildlife and biodiversity conservation. Perceptions and attitudes are partly culturally constructed and are influenced by several variables that include age, gender, religious affiliation or ethnic group, among other variables.
In this study we explored how religious affiliation may interfere with the perceptions of wildlife. We assessed how individuals living inside the Cantanhez Forest National Park (CFNP) in Guinea-Bissau Republic (GB) perceived their environment, i.e., the forest and its animals. CFNP’s territory is included in an important international biodiversity hotspot (Guinean Forest) and is composed by a mosaic of different ecosystems ranging from mangroves to forest fragments, savannas and crops. Around 25.000 people live in CFNP. The population includes a complex mix of many ethnic groups, i.e. Fulbe, Nalu, Susu, Balanta, Tanda, among others. We present results for Balanta and Nalu, the main ethnic groups present at our field site (Madina), inside the CFNP. During data collection we used a survey questionnaire and interviews were conducted.
We found that aesthetical values overlap food preferences with the most beautiful animals (e.g. gazelle) being simultaneously the most edible. Although chimpanzees are considered ugly (and also non-edible), they are also perceived as the most similar being to humans. As for the notion of extinction (of forests and wildlife), it is surprising that still so many respondents can not apply such concept to the resources in CFNP. Although significative statistical differences were found when considering religious affiliation (e.g. animists, Muslims and Catholics), the same was not found when considering ethnicity.
Results will be discussed and final remarks presented.

Key-words: Guinea-Bissau, human dominated landscape, attitudes and local perceptions of wildlife

Nota biográfica
Catarina Casanova
é doutorada pela Universidade de Cambridge em Antropologia (especialidade de Antropologia Biológica), pertenceu ao Darwin College.  Desde 2002 que desenvolve trabalho de campo na Guiné-Bissau tendo publicado inúmeros artigos sobre diferentes temas em contexto Guineense (primatologia, percepções e representações sociais e conflitos em áreas protegidas, entre outros temas). É professora associada de Antropologia no Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas e membro integrado do CAPP. É presidente da Sociedade Portuguesa de Primatologia e integra inúmeras sociedades científicas internacionais.
Susana Costa, Doutorada em Psicologia pela Universidade de Stirling, na Escócia (Reino Unido), desenvolveu trabalho de campo no Parque Nacional das Florestas de Cantanhez (Guiné-Bissau). Interessa-se especialmente pelo modo como as representações sociais e as atitudes exercem influência no comportamento humano e em que medida o mesmo pode contribuir para a preservação ou destruição dos ecossistemas. Actualmente, lecciona o módulo de Métodos e Técnicas de Investigaçao na Pós-graduação de Antropologia Biológica e Forense, do Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas da Universidade Técnica de Lisboa.