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Making Wildlife Viewable: Habituation and Attraction

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The activity of wildlife viewing rests on an underlying contradiction. Wild animals are generally human-averse; they avoid humans and respond to human encounters by fleeing and retreating to cover. One would therefore expect human viewing of wild animals to be at best unpredictable, intermittent, and fleeting. Yet in recent decades, wildlife viewing has become a major recreational activity for millions of people around the world and has emerged as a thriving commercial industry. How can these two things—widespread wildlife intolerance of humans and large-scale human observation of wildlife—be squared? The answer is that wild animals are only viewed on this scale because they have been made viewable through human intervention. This article examines two kinds of intervention—habituation and attraction—that change wildlife behavior toward humans and render hitherto elusive animals susceptible to regular, proximate, and protracted human viewing.

Affiliations: 1: Queen's University Belfast


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