I’ve long adhered to the opinion that individual animals matter in wildlife conservation. Well-known animals with well communicated stories, such as Otis in Katmai National Park or the mountain lion P-22 in southern California, help provide people with accessible ways to connect with entire species.
This may seem non-controversial. After all, wild animal populations are made of individuals just like human families and communities are composed of individual people. But this idea hasn’t been accepted widely among scientists and managers of national parks.
Thankfully that tide seems to be turning, and I’m pleased to be able to contribute to this scientific effort. Results from a survey of bear cam viewers on explore.org show that people who care about Otis and other individual bears are more likely support conservation efforts for brown bears compared to viewers who do said they could not identify individual bears. Please head over to my post on explore.org to learn more.
I’d like to thank the researchers who made this study possible—Jeff Skibins (who drafted this paper and did the data analysis) and Lynne Lewis and Leslie Richardson (who were instrumental in the survey design and implementation). I’d also like to thank the Katmai Conservancy for covering the expense to make the paper available to everyone through open access.
3 thoughts on “Does Otis the Bear Inspire Support for Conservation?”
Hi Mike, it is true. I happened to find the Brown Bear cam after watching the Decorah eagles. It was in 2018 and I have watched ever since. I visited Katmai last August and saw Otis, 747, Grazer , Holly, and so many others. I already had fallen in love with Katmai’s beauty, the bears and all the people that make it work but after visiting and seeing the bears in person I will do whatever I can to protect then and keep Katmai wild. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and passion. It has changed my world completely and for the better! I hope you will speak again at our Fat Bear book club. We just finished In Wild Trust. Take care and looking forward to another wonderful season.
Hi Mike! I agree completely based on my own personal experiences. I’m surprised that that this concept has been so slow to be accepted. I’ve always thought that it was human nature to generalize the same emotions experienced with something specific to encompass something more broad, both for good and for bad. I wonder if human psychology science has studies/data to support your argument. Seems so common sense to me.
You cannot love what you do not know