Aboriginal Policy Research Consortium International (APRCi)

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Human Dimensions of Wildlife: An International Journal



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Research in a number of western and non-western cultures suggests there are only a limited number of basic orientations toward other species. In the broadest sense, these can be related to fundamental cultural assumptions about what the world is like - world views, world metaphors or cosmologies —and how other species are represented as a result of these assumptions.

In this paper we explore our topic in relation to two cultural traditions - those of Aboriginal Australians and Anglo-Australians. We discuss how the differing world views represented in these cultures relate to wildlife attitudes. Aboriginal society before British setdement of Australia shared a substantial consensus about what other animals were like and what was acceptable or unacceptable behavior toward animals. This is reflected in the Aboriginal concept of 'country', Aboriginal totemic systems, and the responsibilities Aboriginal people have by virtue of 'belonging to country'. By contrast, Anglo-Australian society, with its roots in a diverse Greco- Roman philosophical tradition now spread around the world, and highly fragmented into subcultures, shows litde agreement about appropriate behavior towards other species. Not only this, but the often abstract and distanced nature of western interests in wildlife means that many Anglo- Australians, particularly those living in urban areas, have no personal connections to or responsibilities for wildlife in place or in country.

We also discuss how the different cultural categories and conceptions of wildlife used by Aboriginal and Anglo-Australians influence their attitudes and behavior. In particular we discuss the terms 'native', 'exotic' and 'feral'. As a specific example, we consider attitudes toward the feral cat in Australia and how they differ between the two cultural systems. In conclusion, we compare wildlife management concepts in the two cultures.

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