Understanding the role of representations of human-leopard conflict in Mumbai through media-content analysis.
Bhatia S., Athreya V., Grenyer R., MacDonald DW.
Attempts to minimize the effects of human-wildlife conflict (HWC) on conservation goals require an understanding of the mechanisms by which such conflicts are caused and sustained. This necessitates looking beyond the natural sciences to the human dimensions of wildlife management. Public dissemination of information regarding HWC occurs largely through the mass media. We conducted a content analysis of print media articles on human-leopard conflict in Mumbai, India. We sought to understand the framing of HWC and the changes in media coverage over a 10-year period (2001-2011) during which a large number of attacks on people prior to 2005 were followed by a program of trapping and relocation. After 2005, when there was a decrease in the level of conflict, the tone of English-language media reports changed. The perpetrator framing was over 5 times more likely before 2005, whereas a neutral framing was twice as likely after 2005. English-language and non-English-language print media differed significantly in their framing of HWC and in the kinds of solutions advocated. Our results also suggest the print mass media in Mumbai could be an influential conduit for content that diminishes HWC. These media outlets seem attentive to human-leopard conflict, capable of correcting erroneous perceptions and facilitating mitigation and effective management. We believe better contact and mutual understanding between conservation professionals and the mass media could be an important component of managing HWC. We further suggest that in such interactions conservation professionals need to be aware of cultural and linguistic differences in reporting within the country.