Otter Social Science Research: An Evaluation of the General Public’s Knowledge of Otter Species



Scott, Caitlyn

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Otters are a charismatic species that are frequently overlooked and have been depleted throughout history by the fur industry, habitat degradation, and conflicts between otters and commercial fisherman, leaving several otter species to be listed as endangered. In order to achieve more conservation to strengthen otter populations, the general public must be informed of the species’ population status. The distributed questionnaire was aimed to identify the level of existing knowledge the general public has about otter species, providing information on how to release species conservation information to gain funding and push laws that promote conservation and protection for different species and their ecosystems. The survey was distributed in three different locations: Washington, D.C., Boston, Massachusetts, and Bridgewater, Massachusetts. The questionnaire confirmed in all three locations that the general public knew very little about otter species. The average otter knowledge score received by the participants was a score of 2.13 (Washington, D.C.: 1.89; Boston: 2.14; Bridgewater: 2.37). When asked to identify otters from four images, the participants in Boston, Massachusetts performed the best at identifying the two otter species amongst the images (Boston: 49% of participants, Washington, D.C.: 45% of participants; Bridgewater: 47% of participants). The second part of the questionnaire focused on marketing, and asked the general public to rank the need to conserve that otter species based solely on the name provided. Participants were more likely to conserve names with a positive connotation over names with negative connotations by 11-13%. When comparing the three names, “hairy nosed otter,” “furry nosed otter,” and “Southeast Asian otter,” the participants favored the “furry nosed otter” name. Based on average response, all three locations would be more likely to conserve a “rainforest otter” (average response 4.1) than the “giant otter” (average response 3.9). The responses of the participants indicate that it may be worth “rebranding” species’ common names, with positive marketing in mind, to help promote the conservation of various species.



Otters, Public opinion, Conservation marketing, Public knowledge, Otter knowledge