ESR 17:139-156 (2012)  -  doi:10.3354/esr00423

Sociocultural significance of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and the human dimensions of conservation planning

John N. Kittinger1,3,*, Trisann Māhealani Bambico1, Trisha Kehaulani Watson2, Edward W. Glazier1

1Impact Assessment, Inc., Pacific Islands Office, 367-C Kapaloala Place, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813, USA
2Honua Consulting, PO Box 61395, Honolulu, Hawaii 96839, USA
3Present address: Stanford University, Center for Ocean Solutions, Woods Institute for the Environment, 99 Pacific Street, Suite 155A, Monterey, California 93940, USA

ABSTRACT: The Hawaiian monk seal Monachus schauinslandi is Critically Endangered, but relatively little is known about the sociocultural significance of the species in Native Hawaiian communities. An accurate assessment of historical and modern sociocultural values and perceptions is needed to inform conservation and recovery planning for the species, particularly since the species is not universally well-regarded by ocean users. We conducted extensive archival research and oral history interviews to characterize past and current human−monk seal relationships in the Hawaiian archipelago. We report heterogeneity in both historical and contemporary cultural associations for monk seals, which appear to be related to place-specific histories and specific stakeholder groups. We introduce the concept of ‘cultural endemism’ to characterize this pattern of sociocultural heterogeneity, and discuss the relevance of shifting baselines, species recovery, and sociocultural information to conservation planning. We focus on participatory conservation planning approaches as being potentially useful in reducing human−wildlife conflicts and developing collaborative stewardship for better conservation success.


KEY WORDS: Endangered species · Wildlife conflict · Cultural endemism · Historical ecology · Human−environment interactions · Shifting baselines · Participatory management


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Cite this article as: Kittinger JN, Bambico TM, Watson TK, Glazier EW (2012) Sociocultural significance of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and the human dimensions of conservation planning. Endang Species Res 17:139-156

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