Honour’s thesis research project (2013 - 2015)
Incorporating the perception and attitudes of key stakeholders into conservation management can contribute to biodiversity conservation and has the potential to resolve human-wildlife conflicts. To this end, there is scope to enhance conservation outcomes by improving the capture and analysis of stakeholders perceptions and translating these into the management decision making process. Here, an ecosystem services approach (i.e. the benefits people obtain from nature) is used to assess the societal benefits derived from a specialized and rare behavior exhibited by bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus gephyreus) that cooperatively forage with artisanal fishers in Laguna, southern Brazil. From interviews, we identified ecosystem services based on the perception of artisanal fishers who take part in this interaction. The perceived benefits of cooperative fishing with dolphins, identified from these interviews, were grouped into eight ecosystem services assigned into cultural (n = 7) and provisioning (n = 1) related services. The results showed that experienced fishers were more likely to identify multiple and diverse ecosystem services, while fishers exposed to tourists tended to focus on tourism and recreation leisure as benefits from fishing with dolphins. Our findings show that the human component is a key element in this system and support the proposal that future conservation decisions and management plans of Laguna’s bottlenose dolphins should involve artisanal fishers to be more effective. Our findings indicate that an ecosystem services approach could help decision-makers to better integrate social, economic and cultural aspects of human-wildlife interactions into conservation and management strategies for wildlife in a wider context.