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The impact of information and familiarity on public attitudes toward the eastern hellbender


  • Editor: Darren Evans
  • Associate Editor: Cori Richards Zawacki


Despite their ecological significance, rare and uncharismatic but threatened species are less often the focus of research and conservation efforts than more familiar and charismatic threatened species. The eastern hellbender, a salamander threatened by human activities, is believed to be negatively perceived by or unknown to the general public. Through a survey of 541 (response rate 40.1%) residents in southern Indiana, this study assessed public familiarity and attitudes toward the hellbender. Overall attitudes were found to be relatively neutral. There were significant differences between the attitudes of respondents who were familiar with hellbenders compared to those who were not familiar, with familiar respondents reporting more positive attitudes overall. Providing survey respondents with just a small amount of additional information about the rarity and locality of the hellbender resulted in more positive attitudes toward this species. Respondents who were unfamiliar with the hellbender expressed significantly more positive attitudes when given the additional information, while the attitudes of respondents familiar with hellbenders were more established and remained stable despite the additional information. The measurement instruments and findings from this study could inform future efforts to protect little-known and threatened species by identifying attitudes and beliefs for social interventions to address.

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