Date of Award

December 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

Committee Member

Brett A Wright

Committee Member

Robert B Powell

Committee Member

Joseph P Mazer

Committee Member

Elizabeth E Perry


Human activity has dramatically increased the rate of biodiversity loss around the world (Diaz, Fargione, Chapin, Tilman, 2006). Tigers (Panthera tigris) are one of many species that have been significantly affected by human interference via habitat destruction, illegal wildlife trade, and human-wildlife conflicts. As a result, encouraging local community support for tiger conservation and the support of decision makers (governments, NGOs) is necessary, as is building international support through fund- and awareness-raising, even though many in the developed world have no firsthand relationship with tigers and would not be directly affected by its demise. Therefore, how should conservation organizations interested in tigers communicate with these “geographically disassociated” audiences to increase support for conservation efforts? The purpose of this research was to explore how best to communicate with these “geographically disassociated” audiences about tiger conservation using Moral Foundations Theory as a framework to discover whether moral-based rhetoric is useful in creating effective, strategic messaging that is believable and compelling (Graham, Nosek, Haidt, Iyer, Koleva, & Ditto, 2011). The study population was segmented and compared based on respondents’: (1) affiliation/non-affiliation with a tiger-mascot school, (2) importance assigned to tiger conservation, (3) knowledge of tigers and tiger conservation issues, and (4) self-reported political ideology. This study can inform conservation communication practices and provide insights into how to recruit and sustain international support for conservation efforts among geographically-disassociated audiences.

Findings suggest that those who are affiliated with a tiger mascot school (TMS) are significantly more likely to know more about tigers, to engage in tiger-conservation related behaviors, and to consider tiger conservation highly important to them, than their unaffiliated counterparts Further, examination of the salience of five moral foundations among respondents in this study confirmed findings reported by previous researchers related to the differences in moral salience between liberals and conservatives, but discovered that, within the context of tiger conservation-related issues, both groups relied most heavily upon the two individualizing foundations of care/harm, fairness/inequality, but only one binding foundation, sanctity/degradation. Messages written using rhetoric that reflects the individualizing moral foundations were perceived to have a significantly stronger argument than messages utilizing binding rhetoric.



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