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Durham University

Research & business

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Publication details

Waters, Siân, Watson, Tamlin, Bell, Sandra & Setchell, Joanna M. (2018). Communicating for Conservation: Circumventing Conflict with Communities over Domestic Dog Ownership in North Morocco. European Journal of Wildlife Research 64(6): 69.

Author(s) from Durham


Conservationists consider open and direct communication as best practice even when their data conflict with local beliefs. However, ensuring the effective delivery of a controversial message without overtly challenging community identity is difficult. Such a scenario needs high levels of meaningful contact and trust-building dialogue between conservationists and communities as well as innovative means of communicating controversial information. Indirect communication is one such strategy, allowing people to draw their own conclusions about controversial information. We present an example of successful indirect communication of such information in the context of a long-term Barbary macaque community conservation project in Morocco. Dogs in the area kill macaques and domestic livestock in the forest, and local shepherds believed these dogs to be feral. However, our observations identified these dogs as being owned, free-roaming village dogs rather than feral dogs. To impart this controversial information, we developed a dog health programme to communicate our findings and improve the health of domestic dogs to safeguard human and animal health. We administered rabies vaccinations to dogs in three villages and provided their owners with brightly coloured dog collars. After observing collared dogs hunting in the forest, the shepherds realised the dogs had owners. Community participation was high and we vaccinated 242 dogs achieving 60–81% vaccination coverage. An additional benefit of the activity was to successfully convey the message that the conservation team is committed to local people’s welfare as well as to Barbary macaque conservation.