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Conservation Implications of the Prevalence and Representation of Locally Extinct Mammals in the Folklore of Native Americans

Keywords: attitudes , carnivores , conservation , culture , herbivores , humans , traditions

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Many rationales for wildlife conservation have been suggested. One rationale not often mentioned is the impact of extinctions on the traditions of local people, and conservationists′ subsequent need to strongly consider culturally based reasons for conservation. As a first step in strengthening the case for this rationale, we quantitatively examined the presence and representation of eight potentially extinct mammals in folklore of 48 Native American tribes that live/lived near to 11 national parks in the United States. We aimed to confirm if these extinct animals were traditionally important species for Native Americans. At least one-third of the tribes included the extinct mammals in their folklore (N=45 of 124) and about half of these accounts featured the extinct species with positive and respectful attitudes, especially the carnivores. This research has shown that mammals that might have gone locally extinct have been prevalent and important in Native American traditions. Research is now needed to investigate if there indeed has been or might be any effects on traditions due to these extinctions. Regardless, due to even the possibility that the traditions of local people might be adversely affected by the loss of species, conservationists might need to consider not only all the biological reasons to conserve, but also cultural ones.


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