With more than 7,000 individuals populating the Carpathian Mountains and adjacent areas, Romania has the highest density of brown bears in Europe. Since they often inhabit human-dominated landscapes, conflicts with humans are not uncommon.
Researchers from the University of Bucharest and Chelonia Romania studied how Romanian media portrays human-bear interactions and published their study in natural reserve.
“The media plays an influential role in how the public perceives brown bears, so it can encourage human-animal coexistence or exacerbate future conflicts,” they say.
The study found that news about brown bears in the Romanian media first circulated after 2016, after a one-year provisional ban on culling was imposed, and increased abruptly in 2021 after the reporting of a suspected trophy hunting event.
The majority of reports dealt with human-bear interaction, hunting and poaching and provided little context and information on how to avoid conflict. Articles on the ecology and biology of brown bears have been scarce, suggesting less attention to ecological importance and the impact of human activities on their conservation status.
The perceived attitude towards brown bears in the articles examined was predominantly negative (53%; 380 articles). In these articles, the authors used phrases like: “Any moment people can find themselves in front of a hungry bear”; “Apart from the horror they live with every day, they have lost their patience and trust in the authorities.” and “People are afraid of the worst.”
Even when Romanian media reported sightings of bears near populated areas and encounters without casualties, they conveyed a negative image of bears to their readership. ‘Focusing on alarming messages without offering evidence or advice can increase fear and undermine efforts to protect species and society’s well-being,’ the researchers said.
Importantly, the team noted that the media did not consult wildlife and conservation biologists when reporting on human-bear interactions or bear hunting and poaching events. “This may be because the experts are reluctant to participate in the debate, or because the media may not be interested in bringing more scientific context to their reports,” they argue.
“In summary, increasing the frequency of reporting interaction events with alerting messages can only decrease tolerance towards wildlife and negatively impact policy decisions related to brown bear population management.”
The researchers call for the publication of detailed and evidence-based messages as a means to educate people, avoid conflict and facilitate the implementation of effective wildlife conservation and management strategies.
“Evidence-based news can help authorities better understand conflicts and create bottom-up pathways towards an optimistic future for brown bears and Romanian society,” they conclude.
Scientists, animal rights activists: Don’t cull a Romanian brown bear
Andra Claudia Neagu et al, The drums of war are beating louder: media coverage of brown bears in Romania, natural reserve (2022). DOI: 10.3897/naturschutz.50.86019
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Citation: The Drums of War Beating Louder: Media Coverage of Brown Bears in Romania (2022, October 21) Retrieved October 21, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-10-war-louder-media-coverage-brown. html
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