Do public attitudes affect conservation effort? Using a questionnaire-based survey to assess perceptions, beliefs and superstitions associated with frogs in South Africa
Globally, amphibians are among the least appreciated vertebrates and are often negatively perceived by the general public. Such attitudes are particularly prevalent in South Africa, where fear, superstitions and myths associated with frogs are pervasive in some cultures. These attitudes could have harmful consequences both for the animals concerned and conservation efforts. This study aimed to investigate attitudes to frogs throughout South Africa across multiple age and ethnic groups. We used a multi-language survey in both hard-copy and online versions. Respondents (n = 2 295) comprised both genders across six age groups and five ethnic groups. A functionalist approach using structural equation modelling was used to assess how liking of frogs and cultural beliefs varied with socio-demographic factors. Attitudes varied significantly between groups, with males more likely to like frogs than females and age and level of education also significantly linked to liking. The influence of cultural beliefs and lack of knowledge also directly influenced negative attitudes towards frogs. More than 60% of respondents expressed an interest in learning more about frogs, indicating an opportunity for improving attitudes through educational outreach. The findings of this study can be used to inform current efforts to protect amphibians in South Africa through social interventions.
Keywords: attitudes, conservation, cultural beliefs, frogs, South Africa