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Knowledge, Experience and Attitudes towards sharks: A case for species-specific environmental education

Sharks are under threat from human exploitation and their numbers are declining, which has ecosystem consequences. Furthermore, sharks have suffered from a negative public image that has worked to reduce their populations, rather than conserve them. This research sought to determine people’s knowledge, experience and attitudes towards sharks. It explored the link between people’s knowledge and experience with sharks and the attitudes held toward them. Research has shown that attitudes regarding the marine environment and wildlife are shaped by several factors including formal education and personal experience, which have been found to influence the development of environmental attitudes and conservation behaviour. In this research a questionnaire was used to gather data from a cross section of the Mount Maunganui community using a convenience sampling method. Sixty community members and one class of 25 primary students completed the questionnaire. The questionnaire asked participants about their knowledge and attitudes about sharks, their experience with sharks and their general environmental behaviours. Data were either statistically analysed for closed questions, or thematically analysed for open questions. Correlations between knowledge, attitudes and behaviour were explored, as it has previously been found that individuals with high levels of knowledge and positive attitudes towards animals such as sharks are more likely to support their conservation. Findings indicate mostly fear-based attitudes in first thoughts about sharks, influenced often by exposure to entertainment and news media. However, responses to more considered attitude orientation questions tended to be largely positive, and naturalistic in nature. Findings further indicate that good levels of knowledge, experience and mostly positive attitudes towards sharks do not always translate to support for their conservation. Recommendations are made for possible ways to develop people’s knowledge, experience and attitudes towards sharks through environmental education for conservation.
Type of thesis
Broadhead, K. A. (2016). Knowledge, Experience and Attitudes towards sharks: A case for species-specific environmental education (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10162
University of Waikato
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