Anthropogenic pressures, most importantly habitat loss, overexploitation for economic gain, and climate change, have caused the exceptionally rapid endangerment and extinction of many wildlife species over the last few centuries [1
]. The encroachment of natural habitats and the continual expansion of urban areas have also caused conservation conflicts among public groups over wildlife impacts, such as crop damage, damage of private or public property and disease transmission to humans and livestock [3
]. Therefore, the conservation of threatened species and the management of conservation conflicts are among the more pressing wildlife-related issues of our time. However, the implementation of conservation and management strategies is rarely successful without attaining public consensus. Furthermore, consensus cannot be reached without knowing people’s beliefs about wildlife and the effects of such beliefs on people’s support for wildlife conservation and management [4
]. Therefore, such knowledge would be critical for informing policies and strategies aiming at the conservation of threatened wildlife species and the management of conservation conflicts.
Values form the basis of the cognitive hierarchy of human behavior: values, value orientations, attitudes/norms, behavioral intentions and behaviors [7
]. According to Rokeach [9
] (p. 5), a value is ‘‘an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or end state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end state of existence’’. Values, such as freedom, equality and honesty are general mental constructs that are not linked to specific situations or objects (i.e., any entity that is being evaluated, such as a person, situation, wildlife, management action, or policy [10
]). Values are taught early in life, are part of one’s identity, are enduring throughout life and are more difficult to change than attitudes and norms [8
]. They are also widely shared by all members of society; therefore, they are unlikely to account for much of the variability in attitudes and specific behaviors. Basic beliefs reflect our thoughts about general classes of objects (e.g., wildlife, forests) and give meaning to the more abstract values. Value orientations are networks of basic beliefs that organize around values and provide contextual meaning to those values in relation to a particular domain such as wildlife [11
]. Because the strength of value orientations varies among individuals, differences in attitudes and behaviors can be predicted from this variation.
Fulton et al. [7
] and Manfredo et al. [13
] first used wildlife value orientation (WVO) surveys to measure human–wildlife relationships in North America. Subsequently, two key WVOs that affect relationships with wildlife have been identified [12
]: domination (prioritizing human well-being over wildlife and treating wildlife as resources to be used for human benefit) and mutualism (seeing wildlife as part of one’s social community and deserving of rights like humans). Four WVO types have been derived from these two key WVOs [12
]: traditionalist (high domination, low mutualism), mutualist (high mutualism, low domination), distanced (low mutualism, low domination), and pluralist (high mutualism, high domination). Traditionalists believe that wildlife should be used and managed primarily for human benefit. Individuals with a strong traditionalist orientation are more likely to prioritize human well-being over wildlife in their attitudes and behaviors, to use utilitarian arguments to justify treatment of wildlife and to accept lethal management of wildlife. Mutualists view animals as part of an “extended family”, capable of relationships of trust with humans and deserving rights and care. Individuals with a strong mutualist orientation are less likely to accept lethal management of wildlife and are more likely to participate in animal welfare behaviors and anthropomorphize wildlife. Pluralists link both domination and mutualism and their influence is situation-specific; expressed orientation depends on the specific conditions of a given issue. Pluralists could be responding either as traditionalists or as mutualists, making it difficult to predict their behavior. The distanced group have neither a domination nor a mutualism WVO and are not particularly interested in wildlife and wildlife-related issues.
The WVOs are important in predicting public attitudes and behaviors towards wildlife conservation and management issues. This is also an important concept for describing differences in cultural thought, so it can be used in cross-cultural contexts [16
]. Therefore, researchers have applied the WVO concept in different countries, including the Netherlands [17
], Denmark [18
], Sweden [19
], Italy [20
], Estonia [21
] and ten other European countries [22
], Thailand [23
], Mongolia [24
], Malaysia [25
], China [26
], Chile [27
] and Northern Congo [28
]. These studies confirmed the validity of the WVO construct outside the United States. They also reported similarities and differences in WVOs but concluded that WVOs are currently becoming more mutualist and distanced, mostly due to the ever-increasing levels of urbanization [11
]. However, several of these studies are based on rather small samples, which are not representative of the studied country. Furthermore, fewer studies examined the relationship between sociodemographic characteristics and WVOs [12
]. These studies most often reported that younger, female, pet owners, urban residents with higher education tend to be mutualism-oriented, while older, male, non-pet owners, rural residents with lower education are usually domination-oriented.
Our objective was to examine, for the first time, the WVOs of the adult Greek population by collecting a representative sample. First, we asked respondents to rate WVO statements. Next, we recorded five sociodemographic characteristics: age, gender, educational level, current residence and pet ownership. Finally, we assessed the relationship between WVO types and the five sociodemographic characteristics.
Based on previous findings from the literature and our objectives, we hypothesized:
Respondents will have stronger mutualist WVOs;
Older age groups will be more traditionalist-oriented than younger age groups;
Females will be more mutualist-oriented than males;
Individuals with higher education will be more mutualist-oriented than those with lower education;
Urban residents will be more mutualist-oriented than rural residents;
Pet owners will be more mutualist-oriented than not-pet owners.
A total of 2392 questionnaires were completed, with 295 refusals, yielding a response rate of 89%. Greece’s population has a 50.8% female/49.2% male gender ratio, the age ratio, after excluding those under 18 and over 80, is 28.5%/37.1%/34.4% in the 18–34, 35–54 and 55–80 year old age classes, respectively, the higher/lower educational ratio is 29.1%/70.9% [32
] and the rural/urban residents ratio is 21.0%/79.0% [33
]. The sample’s gender (χ2
= 0.064, df = 1, p
= 0.769), age (χ2
= 4.481, df = 2, p
= 0.106), educational level (χ2
= 1.790, df = 1, p
= 0.166) and urban/rural (χ2
= 2.554, df = 1, p
= 0.099) structure (Table 1
) was not different to that of the general population.
Confirmatory factor analysis provided a good fit for the data (χ2
/df = 2.87, CFI = 0.98, GFI = 0.93, NFI = 0.96, RMR= 0.053) and supported the constructs associated with the latent variables, with standardized factor loadings being statistically significant at p
< 0.001 and above the minimum criterion of 0.40 used to denote practical significance (Table 2
). In addition, the internal reliability of the domination (Cronbach’s alpha 0.80) and mutualism (Cronbach’s alpha 0.86) WVOs was high. The majority of the respondents were either mutualists or distanced, supporting hypothesis H1 (Table 3
). In contrast, the proportions of traditionalists and pluralists were generally small in the sampled population. The mean scores of WVO types by basic orientations and beliefs are also shown in Table 3
There was a statistically significant difference in WVO types in terms of age (p
= 0.006; Table 4
). As predicted (H2), the younger age group (18–34 years old) was more mutualist-oriented, while the older age groups (>35 years old) were more traditionalist and distanced-oriented. In general, the proportion of mutualists decreased with age, while that of traditionalists and distanced increased with age.
As predicted (H3), there was a statistically significant gender difference (p
< 0.001), with females being more mutualist than males (Table 4
). On the other hand, males were more traditionalist than females.
WVO types also varied significantly with educational level (p = 0.009). Respondents with higher education were more mutualist and less traditionalist and distanced than those with lower education. These findings support hypothesis H4. In contrast, there was not a significant difference in WVO types with regard to respondents’ current residence (p = 0.477). This finding contradicts hypothesis H5.
Pet ownership significantly affected WVO types (p < 0.001). Respondents who owned a pet were more mutualist and less distanced than those who did not own a pet, in line with hypothesis H6.