Panisi, M., Pissarra, V., Oquiongo, G., Palmeirim, J.M., de Lima, R.F. & Nuno, A. (2022) An endemic-rich island through the eyes of children: wildlife identification and conservation preferences in São Tomé (Gulf of Guinea).Conservation Science and Practice, 4(3), e12630. DOI:10.1111/csp2.12630 (IF2021 3,574; Q1 Biodiversity Conservation)
Species that the public knows and is willing to protect often do not align with international conservation priorities. Assessing perceptions on wildlife is thus essential to guide conservation initiatives, especially in island developing states where native and introduced species often have contrasting values for biodiversity. We used a game to assess the ability of third class students in São Tomé Island (São Tomé and Príncipe, central Africa) to identify wildlife and their conservation preferences. Students correctly identified 28% of the animals shown. Children who were poorer, male or from rural schools were more likely to correctly identify species. Urban children were less successful identifying species endemic to São Tomé and Príncipe than rural children. Conservation preferences were not associated with species identification and instead were justified by subjective species-specific traits, such as attractiveness or profitability. Despite the low identification rates for endemic (10% correct identifications) and threatened birds (2%), children were keen on preserving endemic species, indicating that these might become effective flagships for the unique biodiversity of the island. These results illustrate the need to consider separately the attributes that affect knowledge and willingness to protect, and how both can be used to guide conservation strategies.