Public willingness to engage in backyard conservation in New Zealand: exploring motivations and barriers for participation.
Citizen science and participatory conservation offer benefits to urban wildlife and help foster human-nature relationships in cities. To optimize conservation and social outcomes it is important that initiatives appeal to participants of a wide range of sociodemographic backgrounds. However, this can be challenging when motivation and willingness to undertake activities are influenced by socioecological context. In New Zealand, where control of invasive mammalian predators is a predominant strategy for conservation, trapping of rodents and mustelids has become a popular form of backyard conservation. To understand how the appeal of pest trapping compares with that of other conservation activities, we investigated relationships between sociodemographic characteristics of participants and willingness to undertake three different backyard conservation activities (trapping of pest mammals, monitoring of pest mammals and monitoring of native animals). We also examined barriers and motivations for participating in these activities. Willingness to engage in pest trapping was generally higher than that of the other activities, and although willingness scores for all activities were related to respondents' connection to nature, this relationship was weaker for pest trapping than for monitoring activities. Willingness was also positively related to nature dose for all three activities. Concern for the environment was the only significant motivator of participation for all three activities while social interaction, contributing to community and enhancing one's ego were positively related to willingness for the monitoring activities only. The more general appeal of pest trapping may reflect its more tangible outcomes for conservation or the additional benefits it offers participants through removal of domestic pests. Understanding why some activities appeal across a wide sociodemographic spectrum may allow improved project design that maximizes participant recruitment. By encouraging participation of a wide range of people, such activities could provide an opportunity for people to become more connected with nature.