Use education and/or awareness campaigns to improve behaviour towards reptiles and reduce threats
Overall effectiveness category Awaiting assessment
Number of studies: 7
Background information and definitions
Education programmes or awareness raising campaigns may be devised to address some of the threats posed to reptiles by humans. Such programmes may be aimed at a wide range of audiences, such as tourists, local residents, farmers or other businesses, and may tackle a wide range of threats, from exploitation through hunting, to the trade in exotic pets. In some cases, reptiles are protected by regulations and laws, but these may be difficult to enforce. Some infringements may be difficult to detect, whilst in other cases, people may be unaware of their responsibilities under such rules. Campaigns may be designed to increase compliance with laws, to encourage reporting of infringements (e.g. illegal hunting) or to reduce behaviours that can be a threat to reptiles (e.g. consumption of products derived from wild reptiles). Interventions may be carried out at a range of scales, from specific groups, largely through one-to-one interactions and targeted education programmes, through to large scale campaigns that spread awareness through broadcast and social media, signs and leaflets.
The effects of programmes may be measured in terms of the response of target species or in terms of changes in human behaviour that directly impact the magnitude of the threat.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A study in 1991–1992 on a sandy beach in Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica (Chaves-Quirós et al. 1996) found that while an education programme with local communities along with beach patrols for research and less frequently for turtle nest protection were taking place, there was a decrease in the percentage of leatherback turtle Dermochelys coriacea nests lost to poaching. Results were not statistically tested, and the effect of the different actions cannot be separated. In the first month of the education programme (October 1991), the percentage of nests lost to poaching was 91% (49 of 54 nests); in the second month (November) it was 51% (102 of 199 nests); and over the following four months it was 0–2% (of around 500 nests). In October–November 1991, an education and communications programme was carried out with local communities that involved organising trips to see the turtles, the chance to help with turtle research, lectures, lessons, slideshows, and local distribution of a brochure on leatherback turtle biology and conservation. Activities were also carried out with scout groups and the National Museum of Costa Rica (dates not provided). The beach was patrolled nightly for research purposes from October 1991–March 1992. Additional patrols were carried out by rural guards for three weeks in November and December, and periodically during January and February.Study and other actions tested
A study in 2002–2009 in mixed agricultural and forest habitats and human settlements in Kerala, India (Balakrishnan 2010) found that educating the general public about snake identification, in particular the differences between venomous and non-venomous species, and creating a network of local snake experts lead to the prevention of a large number of non-venomous snakes being killed directly by humans. Results were not statistically tested. Over years following an education program and the creation of a network of local snake experts, local snake experts reported that they intervened to save 276 non-venomous snakes from being killed. The number of snakes that experts reported they saved from killing increased from 20 individuals in 2004 to 60 individuals in 2009. In 2002–2003, presentations about the reptiles in the region, the benefits of snakes, and how to identify them were given in 21 schools, five colleges and at least three villages. People reached by the program included 50 teachers, >400 students, 90 youth club members, and approximately 250 members of the general public. Participants were classed as local experts/citizen scientists (200 people) if they became actively involved in identifying snakes as part of the program, as well as monitoring and preventing snake kills in 2004–2009.Study and other actions tested
A before-and-after study in 1999–2010 in San Mariano municipality, Philippines (van der Ploeg et al. 2011) found that a communication, education, and public awareness campaign aimed at protecting the Philippine crocodile Crocodylus mindorensis resulted in the end of intentional crocodile killings by people and an increase in the crocodile population. Crocodile deaths caused by humans fell from 13 in 1998 to 0–1 in 2008–2010. The non-hatchling population in the municipality grew from 13 in 2002 to 64 in 2009. In addition, people reported crocodile nests to village officials rather than eating the eggs, and villages banned destructive fishing methods. In 1999, a project was set up to save crocodiles in an area, with communication outputs including billboards, wall paintings, posters, radio plugs, comic books, newsletters, school presentations, puppet shows, field visits and training workshops. The campaign focused on 15 villages, though the intensity of the campaign varied between villages.Study and other actions tested
A before-and-after study in 2008–2010 on coastal roads on the Caribbean Sea side of Dominica (Knapp et al. 2016) found that running an awareness campaign and using road signs reduced lesser Antillean iguana Iguana delicatissima road mortality by half. After running an awareness campaign and putting up road signs to reduce driver speeds, lesser Antillean iguana road mortality reduced by 50% (0.3 fatal collisions/day) on coastal roads compared to beforehand (0.6 fatal collisions/day). An awareness campaign about protecting iguanas was carried out in May 2008–June 2010. The campaign included lectures at schools, presentations to government employees, radio and television interviews and distributing bumper stickers across the island asking people to slow down for iguanas. On 1 July 2009, road signs asking people to slow for iguanas were put up on coastal roads near known nesting locations (see original paper for details). Two coastal road segments (11–29 km long) were surveyed for iguanas every other day during the nesting season from April 2008–June 2010 (on 122 days before signs were put up and on 94 days afterwards).Study and other actions tested
A study in 2015–2016 in one hotel overlooking a sandy beach in Georgia, USA (Mascovich et al. 2018) found that when information leaflets detailing turtle-friendly behaviours were left in guest rooms, the number of lights visible from beach facing rooms was higher rather than lower in three of six months compared to when no leaflets were provided, and similar in the other three months. When the information leaflet was provided in 2015, light was visible from more rooms in May–July (59–98%), compared to when no leaflet was provided in May–July 2016 (39–64%). There was no significant difference in the number of rooms with visible lights in August–October (with leaflets in 2015: 40–71%; without leaflets in 2016: 50–64%). The information leaflet listed six options for turtle-friendly behaviour, one of which was to close curtains in beach-facing rooms and turn off outdoor lights. In May–October 2015, all guest rooms were provided with an information leaflet, and in May–October 2016 no leaflets were provided. In May–October in 2015–2016, counts of beach-facing rooms with visible lights were conducted three times/week, with surveys starting at 21:00 h. Data from 29 nights in 2015 and 29 in 2016 were included in the analysis.Study and other actions tested
A study in 2015–2016 in Saint Kitts (Stewart et al. 2018) found that attending an educational summer camp about sea turtle conservation had mixed results on behaviour changes of attendees and their parents/guardians in relation to sea turtle conservation and turtle patrols. In response to a questionnaire, most former camp attendees and their parents/guardians reported a change in behaviour after attending the camp in relation to sea turtles (9–12-year-olds: 9 of 10; ≥ 13-years-olds: 19 of 24; parents/guardians: 34 of 39). Between 21 and 30% of attendees reported that they participated in a sea turtle patrol after attending the camp (9–12-year-olds: 3 of 10; ≥ 13-years-olds: 7 of 23; parents/guardians: 8 of 39). There was no significant increase in the likelihood of parents/guardians getting involved in marine conservation after their child attended the camp (data not reported). In 2007–2016, an annual sea turtle education camp was run that involved presentations, crafting activities and games on the topics of sea turtles and conservation. In 2015–2016, former camp attendees (attended 1–9 years previously) and their parents/guardians were invited to take part in the questionnaire regarding changes in their behaviour relating to sea turtles and the marine environment.Study and other actions tested
A replicated study in 2017 in 37 locations across six river drainage basins in northern Colombia (Vallejo-Betancur et al. 2018) found that local residents exposed to turtle conservation initiatives claimed to have reduced their direct use of turtles compared to local residents not exposed to the initiatives, although stated rates of hunting, buying and selling of turtles remained similar. Fewer local residents exposed to conservation initiatives claimed to use the focal turtle species or other related turtle species as food (focal turtles: 10% of 50 participants; related turtles: 34% of 50) compared to local residents in areas with no conservation initiatives (focal turtles: 54% of 50 participants; sympatric turtles: 54% of 50). More local residents exposed to conservation initiatives claimed to have changed their consumption habits regarding focal turtle species (36% of 50 participants) compared to local residents not exposed to conservation initiatives (6% of 50 participants). However, stated rates of hunting, buying and selling turtles were similar whether or not residents had been exposed to conservation initiatives or not (see original paper for details). Semi-structured interviews with local residents were carried out in 37 locations that were classified into areas where turtle conservation initiatives had been implemented (17 locations, 50 survey participants) and areas where they had not (20 locations, 50 survey participants). Conservation initiatives included education in schools (1 initiative), community agreements to protect turtle habitat (2 initiatives), action against illegal wildlife trade (3 initiatives) and head-starting (12 initiatives).Study and other actions tested
Referenced paperVallejo-Betancur M.M., Paez V.P. & Quan-Young L. (2018) Analysis of People's Perceptions of Turtle Conservation Effectiveness for the Magdalena River Turtle Podocnemis lewyana and the Colombian Slider Trachemys callirostris in Northern Colombia: An Ethnozoological Approach. Tropical Conservation Science, 11, 1-14.