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  FORESTRY SYMPOSIUM 1995

COMMUNICATION: THE MISSING LINK IN CONSERVATION

Sriyanie Mithapala*, Alejandro Grajal** and U K G Padmalal***
*Colombo; **Wildlife Conservation Society, New York;
***Open University, Nugegoda


Following global trends, modern conservation in Sri Lanka is veering away from policing and preservation, and is encouraging sustainable use and emphasizing public awareness and participation.

Nonetheless, on-the-ground progress in conservation has not been adequate. This slow progress can be attributed to many factors including financial constraints, lack of motivation within and lack of coordination between agencies. It is proposed that one of the most fundamental reasons for the dragging pace of conservation is the lack of communication between biologists (the producers of information) on the one hand and the users of biological resources and decision makers (the receivers of the information) on the other. The core of the problem is that scientists are trained to stimulate the intellect and to formulate testable hypotheses, use statistical analyses and objectively report results. Scientists are not trained to evoke emotion, to dramatize, to surprise or to entice the public with their results. Above all, they are not trained to provoke a response in the form of action.

The goal in this paper is to open the eyes and minds of conservation biologists to effective communication and to emphasize the need, in effect, to advertise and market these messages to elicit a response from the public. Communication is defined in terms of marketing and advertising as a process by which a producer sends a message to a receiver who responds to that message, i.e. there is feedback to the producer. It is a process of exchange. There are six main steps in an effective communication strategy: 1) Identification of the main problem and formulation of the goal; 2) Definition of measurable objectives; 3) Research on facts; 4) Identification of target groups (market segmentation); 5) Development of a communication strategy (formation of marketing and advertising plans); 6) Evaluation of goal(s).

This paper merely introduces the basic concepts and tools of a communication strategy. That effective conservation can only be achieved through effective communication is reiterated. Once this link is made and enriched, conservation biology will be a truly multidisciplinary science.


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