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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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ARTICLE
Year : 2011  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 229-235

What is a conservation actor?


School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

Correspondence Address:
Paul Jepson
School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford
United Kingdom
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.86993

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As a crisis-oriented discipline, conservation biology needs actions to understand the state of nature and thwart declines in biodiversity. Actors-traditionally individuals, institutions, and collectives-have been central to delivering such goals in practice. However, the definition of actors within the discipline has been narrow and their role in influencing conservation outcomes inadequately conceptualised. In this paper, we examine the question 'What is a conservation actor?' Who or what creates the capacity to influence conservation values and actions? Drawing from theoretical developments in Actor-Network Theory and collective governance, we argue that the concept of an actor in conservation biology should be broadened to include non-humans, such as species and devices, because they have the agency and ability to influence project goals and outcomes. We illustrate this through four examples: the Asian elephant, International Union for Conservation of Nature red lists, the High Conservation Value approach, and an Integrated Conservation and Development Project. We argue that a broader conceptualisation of actors in conservation biology will produce new forms of understanding that could open up new areas of conservation research, enhance practice and draw attention to spheres of conservation activity that might require stronger oversight and governance.


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