Selecting insects as flagship species for Beverin nature park in Switzerland
Schlegel, Jürg; Rupf, Reto (2015). Selecting insects as flagship species for Beverin nature park in Switzerland: A survey of local school children on their attitudes towards butterflies and other insects. eco.mont, 7(1), 5-16. Peer reviewed.;
The management of Swiss Beverin Nature Park in the Canton of Grisons is interested in establishing insects as flagship species to promote the Schams Mountain (“Schamserberg”) ecosystem and wants to base the decision-making process on quantitative research.
A survey on attitudes towards insects was designed and then completed by 331 local pupils, aged 8 to 16. The standardized questionnaire presented 11 adult butterflies/moths, 4 caterpillars and 7 other insects individually in colour photographs and asked how pretty, interesting, disgusting or fear-inducing the species were. Additionally, the underlying reasons for the reaction in terms of an animal’s colour, pattern, body feature or movement and sound were sought.
The results add details to existing research and can serve as helpful information for both the creation of environmental education programmes and the selection of resident insects as flagship species. The expected positive perception of butterflies/moths was confirmed, while other insects were perceived as interesting and, if colourful, even pretty. In general, children noticed colour details. For levels of disgust, body features were important, while colour and pattern were largely irrelevant. As attitudes differed and tended to become more negative with higher-age participants, it is recommended that environmental education starts early and is target-group specific.
Most of the insect species studied might serve as appropriate flagship species, based on their prettiness or the interest they attract. The final choice should also reflect the accessibility of their actual habitat. As a next step, the Beverin Nature Park is advised to conduct further focused research on the specific distribution of the potential flagship insects within the park. On this basis, appropriate nature trails could be established with emphasis on environmental education.