August 8, 2008

Study: Ego May Spur Some Conservationists

A Canadian study suggests some people who engage in animal conservation efforts might do it more for their own egos than to protect wildlife.

University of Alberta researchers studied purple martin landlords -- people who maintain and monitor special birdhouses on their land. The scientists found such people were more motivated to take part in the conservation project for egoistical, rather than altruistic, reasons.

"Though there were areas of overlap, we found that common motivations for self-benefit included interaction with the birds, a sense of achievement, social interaction, personal stimulation and enjoyment," said Professor Glen Hvenegaard, a co-author of the qualitative study.

"Past research shows people take part in wildlife activities for many reasons and so require a sophisticated level of management," he said. "Our findings reinforce that."

Hvenegaard noted although self-satisfaction motivations were mentioned most often, people also had many unselfish reasons for taking part in conservation, including helping preserve nature for future generations.

The researchers said their findings might help conservation organizations recruit and keep satisfied volunteers.

The study is to be presented this fall in Estes Park, Colo., during the 2008 Conference on Integrating Human Dimensions into Fisheries and Wildlife Management.