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Exploring human appreciation and perception of spontaneous urban fauna in Paris, France

Explorer l’appréciation et la perception par l’homme de la faune urbaine spontanée à Paris, France
Explorando la apreciación y percepción humana sobre la fauna urbana en París, Francia
Chloé Duffaut, Florence Brondeau et Julien Gasparini

Résumés

Les populations citadines sont confrontées au développement de nombreuses espèces animales spontanées, lesquelles peuvent être plus ou moins appréciées et acceptées. À l'aide d'un questionnaire, nous avons évalué l'appréciation et la perception du pigeon (Columba livia), du rat (Rattus norvegicus) et du hérisson (Erinaceus europaeus) par des personnes dans des parcs, des gares, des lieux touristiques, des jardins partagés et des cimetières à Paris (France). Deux cents personnes ont été interrogées entre mai 2017 et mars 2018. Si les facteurs âge, sexe, niveau d'éducation ou encore lieu d'enquête n'apparaissent pas déterminants pour analyser de manière différenciée l'appréciation portée sur ces espèces par les personnes, il apparaît par contre clairement une différence d'appréciation en fonction de l'espèce et de l'utilité supposée de l'animal, qui est aussi souvent mal connue. Le rat est détesté (avec une appréciation moyenne de 2,2/10) et le hérisson aimé (avec une appréciation moyenne de 7,7/10). Le cas du pigeon est plus complexe avec des personnes qui l'aiment ou le détestent et beaucoup d'autres qui lui sont indifférentes (avec une appréciation moyenne de 4,7/10). Le qualificatif le plus souvent associé aux pigeons et aux rats est le mot "sale" et, pour les hérissons, le mot "mignon". Comme Driscoll (1995) qui a trouvé une corrélation positive entre l'utilité estimée et l'appréciation donnée à l'espèce, nous supposons qu'apporter des informations aux citoyens sur les services écosystémiques fournis par les espèces urbaines non appréciées pourrait améliorer leur perception de ces animaux, et donc permettre une meilleure cohabitation.

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Introduction

1Cities are suitable environments for the development of certain species in a spontaneous way. The word "spontaneous" is considered here in the same sense that Maris defines the term "wild": these are "those animals we have not domesticated, the lands we have not made productive" and "places [and] beings, but also processes that escape the control" of humans (Maris, 2018). It is being recognized, however, that the very functioning of urban societies has a considerable influence on the behavior of some of these species and helps to explain their proliferation in certain cases, such as the presence of waste or feeding practices (Georges, 2022) or the multiplicity of differentiated habitats and potential shelters (Blanc, 2000, 2021).

2This spatial proximity between human dwellers and the different form of nature (animals, plants, bacteria and fungi), may generate problems (Lyytimäki et al., 2008) and can degrade the perception of nature in cities. The influence of the hygienist tradition in the conception of the modern city, and the confusion between insalubrity and the presence of animals, has led to a preference for plants over animals in urban spaces (Blanc, 2021). Indeed, some species are perceived as undesirable and are poorly accepted by the population (Johnson, 2013). For example, the presence of rats in certain squares in Paris is not well received by local residents, and is often reported on the "Dans ma rue" application managed by the City Council's veterinary services. It's a sensitive subject, often reported in the press. Similarly, the term "flying rat", attributed to the pigeon, bears witness to the poor image this animal conveys, if not the repulsion it can inspire. According to Bjerke and Østdahl (2004), other spontaneous animals living in cities are not very popular in Norway, such as mosquitoes, mice, snails, wasps, bees, beetles and bats. Moreover, the question of sharing urban space between the population and certain species may arise (example of gulls in Marseille - Savalois, 2012).

3Urban ecology research is evolving to better understand the co-evolution between city dwellers (their preferences, expectations, perceptions, etc.), animals and urban environments, in which certain species find favorable conditions for development (Blanc, 2021). Perceptions of urban wildlife evolve over time and according to conditions of acceptability, which are themselves influenced by numerous factors. So, the confinement caused by the covid-19 crisis has enabled urban dwellers to interact with certain animal species, particularly in their private spaces. In France, some of these species have been welcomed, such as birds, spiders, butterflies, caterpillars, ladybugs and bees, while others have been removed from private spaces, such as mosquitoes, cockroaches, hornets, wasps, moths, midges, aphids, cockchafers and centipedes (Dakouré et al., 2022). In another study conducted prior to covid-19, city dwellers were asked to indicate the minimum distance they thought different species should be from their homes. The sparrow was accepted in their city by 89% of respondents, versus 68% for pigeons, and in the domestic space (garden, yard or indoors) by 54% of respondents, versus only 24% for pigeons (Clergeau et al., 2020).

4While efforts are being made to promote biodiversity in cities, the protection and restoration of biodiversity is increasingly viewed in terms of ecosystem services, defined as "all the benefits provided by nature to human societies" (MEA, 2005), particularly since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in 2005. The notion of ecosystem service and the utility thus attributed to the biosphere does, however, give rise to scientific debates that need to be raised beforehand. Indeed, the concept of ecosystem service, originally conceived by a team of economic researchers in the late 1990s (Costanza et al., 1997), has given rise to a great deal of often critical reflection from both ecologists (Daily, 1997) and the social sciences (Maris, 2014; Méral, Pesche, 2016). Calculating the value of the benefits obtained by protecting biodiversity raises the question of valuation methods, given the complexity of the functionalities of all ecosystems and their interrelationships. Daily (1997) introduces ecosystem services as a process and emphasizes the distinction she sees with the benefits humans derive from them. Ecosystem services are seen as providers of benefits, not direct benefits (Boyd, Banzhaf, 2007). Moreover, biodiversity is defined not only by its structure but also by its functionalities, and "maximizing the number of species is totally insufficient to have quality biodiversity [...] particularly in terms of ecological functioning" (Clergeau 2015). Furthermore, insofar as ecosystem services are defined in relation to human well-being, are we not choosing to preserve a certain biodiversity that is "useful" to human societies? This would mean privileging certain forms of biodiversity and certain species to the detriment of others, which would not provide benefits, or even generate disservices (Méral, Pesch, 2016). In this way, the intrinsic value of biodiversity guaranteed by the Convention on Biological Diversity would not be respected. For some authors, the underlying "commodification" of nature and the anthropocentrism of this approach seem symptomatic of compliance with economic and societal models considered responsible for the destruction of the biosphere (Maris, 2014).

5These debates have done little to relativize the widespread use of this notion, as evidenced by the weight of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in defining priorities in terms of biodiversity policy.

6In this context, what role can be envisaged for spontaneous species, including those that suffer from a poor image, do not a priori contribute to the well-being of city dwellers, or are even associated with inconveniences, and in some cases seem undesirable? Previous studies have shown that the estimated utility of animals has an impact on the appreciation and perception of these species (Driscoll, 1995; Serpell, 2004). We define here utility as ecosystem services provided by urban nature. For example, a parallel can be drawn between the deteriorating image of the pigeon and the loss of its utility or functions for humans (Jerolmack, 2007; Jerolmack, 2008). In contrast, the transmission of pathogens can negatively impact this perception and the memory of the history of pathogens transmission can continue over several generations. For instance, rats have been associated with the plague for a long time (Treille, Yersin, 1894) which may have significantly affected its image.

7It may thus be interesting to ask whether city dwellers attribute a potential "utility" to spontaneous urban species, and whether or not this contributes to influencing the appreciation they have of them and the degree of acceptability they might grant them. Is usefulness, associated with the services and benefits provided, really an essential criterion for the appreciation and acceptability of biodiversity by city dwellers? More broadly, what factors are involved in the relationships that individuals have with species that find the necessary conditions in the urban environment?

8To answer to these questions, it is necessary to first depict a clear background on the perception of urban nature by dwellers and to investigate the factors that affect this perception. Here, we first hypothesize that the individual characteristics, the species considered, the frequency of species' observation and the estimated usefulness of the animal may influence the appreciation of the spontaneous urban species by city dweller.

9To test our hypotheses, we conducted a social approach based on a questionnaire of the Parisian agglomeration population about the perception of three urban species: the feral pigeons (Columba livia), the rats (Rattus norvegicus) and the European hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus). These species a priori differ in term of appearance, behaviour, culture, historical relationships with humans and current perception of the utility by human. The rat is one of the species the least appreciated by the population, as evidenced by the many complaints made by residents of particularly "infested" sites (2455 reports of rats in Paris on the application "Dans ma rue" between August 22, 2012 and April 19, 2018). The pigeon is often associated with the image of a rat with wings (Jerolmack, 2008) and the droppings are a nuisance constantly decried while the image associated with various forms of utility that were attributed to it have evolved in history (Jerolmack, 2007). The hedgehog is a protected species which is known to be predators of several garden pests (Hommay et al., 1998; Schley, Bees, 2003; Clemente et al., 2010; Haigh, 2011).

10In order to consider the current perception of city dwellers with respect to these different species, we combined open and closed questions and quantitative and qualitative questions. We expect the rat to be the least popular of the three species and the hedgehog the most loved. We also expect that species appreciation will depend on the personal characteristics of respondents, the species, the frequency of observation and positively correlated with estimated usefulness. We think that the words associated with rats and pigeons will be negative and those related to hedgehogs positive. This qualitative approach will allow us to complete our quantitative studies to examine the factors that affect the qualifiers (positive or negative) used by respondent for each of the three species.

Material and methods

11The urban animals we investigated in Paris are the rock pigeon (Columba livia), the Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) and the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus). The rock pigeon is the most common urban bird worldwide (Aronson et al., 2014). It is a granivore, but will also eat insects, mollusks and, of course, food scraps such as bread and cakes (Johnston, Janiga, 1995). The rat is a rodent and the world's most common mammal (Sullivan, 2004). Rattus norvegicus lives in hierarchical colonies. It is omnivorous (Clapperton, 2006) and opportunistic, so its choice of food depends mainly on availability (Traweger, Slotta-Bachmayr, 2005). The European hedgehog is a small nocturnal mammal, protected in France since 1981 (Ministère de l'environnement, Order of 17 April 1981). It eats mainly beetles, caterpillars, earthworms and bird eggs (Morris, 2014). European hedgehogs are more prevalent in cities than in rural areas, which may be explained by the additional availability of food, particularly for domestic animals, and higher temperatures (Hubert et al., 2011). To know the perception of people about pigeons, rats, and hedgehogs in Paris (France), we used a questionnaire divided in 8 parts: context of questionnaire, observation of animals, perception, services, inconveniences and nuisances, practice, knowledge about species and personal issues. We constructed the questionnaire to determine whether the appreciation of these animals present in the city is influenced by the species, the frequency of observation of the given species, the usefulness of the animals estimated by the respondents, the gender, the age, the level of education, the place of residence of the respondents and the location of the survey. In addition, to test our second hypothesis, we wanted to know what words or feelings or emotions were associated with the pigeons, rats and hedgehogs used by the respondents, what they liked or did not like about these species, what services these animals can give and what inconvenience they may cause according to them.

12In practice, 200 questionnaires were performed in Paris between May 2017 and March 2018 by two persons: the first author (164) and an internship student in geography (36). They were done in parks and squares, train stations, touristic places, shared gardens, cemeteries and a library (table 1, figure 1). We chose these places because it allowed us to find many people from different backgrounds. The train stations made it possible to ask people living outside of Paris. The tourist sites are, according to the bibliography, places where the pigeons are more appreciated (Skandrani et al., 2015). In shared gardens, we are likely to find people who are more sensitive to nature and more knowledgeable about the species of spontaneous urban fauna. The map in figure 1 also shows the social classes in and around Paris. As can be seen, the locations where the questionnaires were taken are in areas of very different social classes: for example, the Champs-de-Mars and the Jardin du Luxembourg are in well-to-do territories, the Jardin du Ruisseau in vulnerable territory, and the Musée Beaubourg in a socially mixed area. However, we did not use the data from this map for our statistical analyses, as many of our respondents did not live close to the survey site. We therefore preferred to use people's place of residence and level of education to reflect their social class.

Table 1: Table of the number of questionnaires by place

Type of places

Precise places

Number of questionnaires

Total by type

Parks and squares

Jardin des Plantes

27

92

Parc de Choisy

24

Jardin du Luxembourg

15

Parc des Buttes Chaumont

21

Jardin Villemin

3

Square Saint-Jacques

2

Train stations

Gare Saint-Lazare

20

34

Gare du Nord

14

Touristic places

Tour Eiffel - Champs de Mars

9

38

Notre-Dame de Paris

16

Musée Beaubourg

13

Shared gardens

Jardin du Ruisseau

7

12

Jardin Baudélire

1

Bois Dormoy

2

Jardin Saint-Serge

1

Potager de la Lune

1

Cemeteries

Cimetière du Père Lachaise

12

23

Cimetière du Montparnasse

11

Library

Library Marguerite Audoux

1

1

Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.

Figure 1: Map of Paris with the numbers of questionnaires in bold and the neighborhood social classes

Figure 1: Map of Paris with the numbers of questionnaires in bold and the neighborhood social classes

Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.

13The respondents were volunteers and the questions were read to them. Only adults were interviewed, because surveying minors requires authorization from a parent or legal guardian. In addition, for practical reasons, we can even have questionnaires filled in during the middle of the week, when minors are at school. The respondents were 100 women (14 between 18 and 24 years old, 35 between 25 and 44, 28 between 45 and 64, 23 over 65; figure 2) and 100 men (15 between 18 and 24 years old, 35 between 25 and 44, 33 between 45 and 64, 17 over 65; figure 2). The proportions by age group and gender are in line with those of the French population in 2018 (χ27 = 3.30, P = 0.86, INSEE).

Figure 2: Age pyramid of respondents

Figure 2: Age pyramid of respondents

The numbers next to the bars correspond to the numbers of people per age group.

Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.

14The professions of the respondents are diverse and the most represented are in the informatics (12 respondents) and teaching (18 respondents; figure 3). One hundred and fourteen respondents are from Paris, 53 from the Parisian suburbs, 23 from the provinces of France and 7 from another country. Thirty-one respondents have no higher education, 73 have a high school diploma to bachelor and 90 have a diploma higher than the bachelor. The proportions of education levels are not in agreement with those of the French population in 2018 (χ22 = 46.41, P < 0.00001, INSEE) and of the Parisian population in 2016 (χ21 = 5.57, P = 0.02, INSEE), respondents had a level of education much higher than those of the French population on average and higher than the Parisian population. This could be due to a bias in the choice of survey locations, which would be frequented by people with rather long studies.

Figure 3: Word cloud with the field of work or education of the respondents

Figure 3: Word cloud with the field of work or education of the respondents

Only word mentioned at least three times appear. The forms used are verbs, common nouns and adjectives. The verbs are back to the infinitive, the names are back to the singular.

15The questionnaire includes both quantitative and qualitative questions. In the context of the questionnaire, we mentioned the day of week and the geographical place. In the animal observation section, we asked for the frequency of observation of the different species. In the perception part, we asked for the appreciation of species between 0 and 10: 0 means the animal is hated by the person, 5 means indifference to the animal and a score of 10 means the animal is adored. Appreciation therefore corresponds to the interest, feelings towards the animal and value of the animal for the person. We also requested three qualifiers as following: "Give three qualifiers to designate each animal" and finally we asked the following questions: "What do you dislike in each animal?", "What do you like in each animal?", and "What emotion(s) and feeling(s) do you associate with these animals?". In the services part, we asked for the estimated usefulness of species between 0 and 10 and the following question: "How can these animals be useful for humans?". In the inconveniences and nuisances part, we asked the following question: "What inconvenience(s) and nuisance(s) do these animals cause?". In the personal information section are the gender, the age, the level of education and the place where the respondents live. In the present article, we were not interested in practice and knowledge about the species, but in their perception, of both appreciation and utility to humans.

16With the qualitative answers, we built word clouds with the software IRaMuTeQ version 07 alpha 2. Only word mentioned at least three times appear. The forms used are verbs, common nouns and adjectives and the following words: everywhere, nothing, many, all, some, no. The verbs are brought back to the infinitive, the names are brought back to the singular. Font size is proportional to the answer frequency. We used RStudio (version 3.3.1) to conduct the statistical analyses. We first performed a mixed model with Poisson distribution (with package "lme4") to investigate whether the species (pigeon, rat or hedgehog), the frequency of observation of species (often, sometimes, rarely or never), the age of respondents (under 25, between 25 and 44, between 45 and 64, over 65), gender of respondents (woman or man), level of education of respondents (no higher education, high school diploma to bachelor, higher than bachelor), place where the questionnaire was done (park, train station, touristic place, shared garden, cemetery), the place of residence of respondents (in Paris or out of Paris), estimated utility of species between 0 and 10 by respondents and the two-way interactions with species, impacted the appreciation of species (from 0 to 10). We included the day (weekend day, Wednesday afternoon or another day) as a random factor and we used the optimizer "bobyqa" (Bound Optimization BY Quadratic Approximation), which aims to minimize a multivariate function by a confidence region method that forms quadratic models by interpolation. Non-significant interactions were removed step-by-step to obtain the final model.

17To complete the analysis, a Kruskal and Wallis test was performed on the frequency of observation of the species. A post-hoc test of Nemenyi was carried out on categorical variables to know which modality is different from the others.

The usefulness associated with the spontaneous species studied is one of the criterions for appreciation and acceptance by the Parisian population

The influence of respondent characteristics exists but is not statistically convincing

18First, the results of the survey showed that the appreciation of these species was not significantly impacted by the age, the gender, the frequency of observation, or the place of residence (Paris intra muros or not - table 2).

Table 2: Output of the generalized mixed models explaining variations in appreciation of animals

Appreciation

df

Chisq

p

Species

2

83.51

< 0.0001

Frequency of observation of species

3

75.43

0.24

Age

3

5.53

0.14

Gender

1

0.14

0.71

Study

2

3.55

0.17

Place

4

6.32

0.18

Paris

1

0.37

0.54

Estimated Utility

1

88.53

< 0.0001

Species*Study

4

9.75

0.04

Species*Place

8

15.51

0.05

Species*Estimated Utility

2

67.11

< 0.0001

Output of the generalized mixed models explaining variations in appreciation of animals according to species (pigeon, rat or hedgehog), frequency of observation of species by respondents (often, sometimes, rarely or never), age of respondents (under 25, between 25 and 44, between 45 and 64, over 65), gender of respondents (woman or man), level of education of respondents (no higher education, high school diploma to bachelor, higher than bachelor), place where the questionnaire was done (park, train station, touristic place, shared garden, cemetery), the place of residence of respondents (in Paris or out of Paris), estimated utility of species between 0 and 10 by respondents and interactions with species variable. Non-significant interactions were removed step-by-step to obtain the final model. df: degree of freedom, Chisq: decision variable, p: p-value.

Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.

19Contrary to our prediction, we detected no difference of appreciation by gender or age, like Berthier and her colleagues for the ring-necked parakeet also in Paris (Berthier et al., 2017), whereas others authors find some differences of appreciation about animals between gender (Bjerke, Østdahl, 2004; Knight et al., 2004; Herzog, 2007; Prokop et al., 2009; Taylor, Signal, 2009; Zhang et al., 2014; Cailly Arnulphi et al., 2017), and age (Bjerke, Østdahl, 2004; Cailly Arnulphi et al., 2017). Appreciation of the animals chosen for our study seems to be fairly consensual, with the pigeon often indifferent, the rat hated and the hedgehog adored. The seemingly comparable appreciation that men and women have for pigeons and rats can be explained by the fact that both animals are considered "pests". Indeed, Taylor and Signal (2009) have noted that attitudes towards pests are the same regardless of gender. The hedgehog, on the other hand, is so popular that it's a favorite for everyone.

20However, in agreement with previous studies (Bjerke, Østdahl, 2004; Cailly Arnulphi et al., 2017), we detected an effect of education level on pigeon appreciation: less educated people appreciated the pigeon more than the most educated. We found significant interactions between the species and the level of education (χ24 = 9.75, P = 0.04). This corresponds to the opposite of what previous works usually found: the more educated people usually appreciated animals more (Bjerke, Østdahl, 2004; Cailly Arnulphi et al., 2017). The post-hoc test revealed that people without higher education liked pigeons more than people with education levels higher than the bachelor (Nemenyi test, P = 0.05).

21Nevertheless, the main significant finding is that the type of species is an essential consideration of the appreciation (table 2, figure 4). The case of the pigeon is the most complex (figure 4). Appreciations are much more divided: almost half (45%) of people assign a value between 4 and 6, 62 respondents are hostile to this species (appreciation from 0 to 3) while 10% of the respondents assign it the maximum score of 10. As expected, the rat, a species often considered undesirable, is the least popular animal: 79 respondents attribute the minimum value on a scale of 0 to 10 (figure 4). In contrast, the hedgehog, a protected species, gets 155 appreciations between 6 and 10 (figure 4).

Figure 4: Histograms of the number of respondents based on the respondents' appreciation about pigeon, rat and hedgehog

Figure 4: Histograms of the number of respondents based on the respondents' appreciation about pigeon, rat and hedgehog

Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.

22The appreciation greatly differed among species as previously reported in several studies (Batt, 2009; Taylor, Signal, 2009; George et al., 2016). Interestingly, our results are similar to those of Bjerke and Østdahl (2004) in an urban area in Norway which reported that the rats are hated, that the pigeons are moderately appreciated and the hedgehogs are much appreciated. In contrast, a questionnaire performed with the staff of a South African university in 2013 and 2014 revealed that pigeons were more appreciated. Indeed, more than half of the respondents had positive experiences with this animal and only 20% were neutral in their perception while about one quarter had a negative perception of the pigeon (Harris et al., 2016). Harris and colleagues explain this positive image of pigeons among university staff by the background of their families and their general positive opinion of birds. For the rat, studies are less contrasted. First, in the UK, another study conducted in the 2000’s showed that the rat obtained average appreciation of 3.7/10 (above our average of 2.2/10) and was the eleventh least popular species before the earthworm, the spider, the bee or the jellyfish (Batt, 2009). In Europe in the 1980’s, studies reported that it was one of the 2 most feared animals (with the grass-snake) in a list of about 30 species (Bennett‐Levy, Marteau, 1984; Merckelbach et al., 1987).

The influence of estimated utility is perceptible

23Interestingly, we found that the more an animal is considered useful, the more it is appreciated (χ21 = 101.89, P < 0.0001; table 1, figure 5). The interaction between the species and the estimated usefulness also have an impact on the appreciation (χ22 = 67.10, P < 0.0001; table 1, figure 5) with the most important slope for the pigeon.

Figure 5: Mean appreciation of species by respondents (between 0 and 10) by the estimated utility of species according to respondents (between 0 and 10) by species

Figure 5: Mean appreciation of species by respondents (between 0 and 10) by the estimated utility of species according to respondents (between 0 and 10) by species

P: pigeon, R: rat and H: hedgehog. Error bars indicate the standard error of the mean.

Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.

24For respondents, the utility associated with pigeons are: "eat", "home", "nothing", "food" and "waste" (figure 6A, table 3), for rats: "eat", "waste", "nothing", "clean", "reduction" and "sewer" (figure 6B, table 3) and for hedgehogs: "eat", "insect" and "garden" (figure 6C, table 3).

Figure 6: Word clouds with the answers of "How can these animals be useful to humans?"

Figure 6: Word clouds with the answers of "How can these animals be useful to humans?"

Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.

25As expected, our results also show that the estimated utility of animals to humans is an important factor determining the species appreciation. Humans seem to like other beings according to what they can benefit from them. This is in line with Serpell's work for which the attitude to animal is mainly influenced by "affect" and "utility" (Serpell, 2004); Serpell defines "affect" as "representing people's affective and/or emotional reactions to animals", and "utility" as "people's perception of animals' instrumental values". It's also in line with the work of Driscoll who found a positive correlation between the estimated utility and the love given to the species (Driscoll, 1995). In the same way, for example, love for pets is associated with their usefulness to human, improving his health, well-being and reducing his isolation (Serpell, 1996).

26It may be noted that for the three animals studied, the word that appears most for what these animals can be useful for is "eat". This word, in the case of the pigeon, can refer to the fact that it can be eaten, but also that it can eat "waste". For the rat, its function of "waste" collector is recognized by about thirty people. The hedgehog is known to "eat" pests, including "insects", in "garden". The respondents recognize more easily the helpful side of the hedgehog because they quote the word "useful" in what they like about it. The messenger function for the pigeon appears as the second service recognized by the respondents ("home") even if it is no longer used today (Jerolmack, 2007).

27We can also note that the word "nothing" is the third most quoted word for pigeons (14 times) and rats (21 times) in response to: "How can these animals be useful for humans?". This shows that a part of the population does not see these species as useful or doesn’t know these animals well enough to determine their potential utility. However, these species may provide unknown services to the public, such as the sequestration of trace metals in the feathers of pigeons (Frantz et al., 2012) or the rat's waste collector effect (according to WWF, 800 tons of waste would be consumed by rats every day in Paris, Planetoscope).

28Globally, these studies seem to be unknown to citizens and could constitute a way to reconnect people and nature. Indeed, species considered invasive or simply harmful can also help reconnect city dwellers with nature, such as exotic turtles in the parks of Strasbourg (France), where 40% of users are satisfied with their presence (Philippot et al., 2019), or foxes and corvids seen positively thanks in particular to their aestheticism or the fact that they remove waste or corpses (Philippot et al., unpublished). The spread of knowledge on species ecology and on potential utility for citizens could be crucial to improve the positive perception toward biodiversity. This is, in any case, the underlying assumption behind the concept of ecosystem service, which is seen as a tool for protecting biodiversity in spite of the controversies it raises both among ecologists (Méral, Pesche, 2016) and social scientists (Maris, 2014).

The differentiated appreciation of the 3 species is associated with historically and culturally rooted perceptions

29The fact that the three species are very differently appreciated may be explained by several factors such as the appearance, the behaviour, the culture and the common history.

The appearance and behaviour associated with the 3 species play a major role in their appreciation

30The most used qualifiers for the pigeons are: "dirty", "invasive" and "noisy" (figure 7A, table 3) and for the rats: "dirty", "harmful" and "intelligent" (figure 7B, table 3). We must add "disgust", "disease", "dangerous" which also appear with an elevated frequency (figure 7B). The qualifiers used are therefore predominantly negative for these two species.

Figure 7: Word clouds with the answers of "Give three qualifiers to designate each animal"

Figure 7: Word clouds with the answers of "Give three qualifiers to designate each animal"

Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.

Table 3: The three most cited words for the six questions for each species

Pigeon

Rat

Hedgehog

Give three qualifers to designate each animal.

dirty

(50)

dirty

(67)

cute

(76)

invasive

(32)

harmful

(23)

sympathetic

(24)

noisy

(13)

intelligent

(19)

spiky

(21)

What do you like in each animal?

nothing

(37)

nothing

(83)

cute

(37)

color

(17)

intelligent

(11)

little

(12)

bird

(16)

intelligence

(9)

look; nature; useful

(11; 11; 11)

What do you dislike in each animal?

droppings

(31)

disease

(43)

nothing

(94)

everywhere

(26)

dirty

(31)

flea

(11)

nothing

(23)

carrier

(15)

spike

(8)

What emotion(s) or feeling(s) do you associate with each animal?

disgust

(24)

disgust

(53)

joy

(14)

indifference

(20)

fear

(32)

tenderness

(14)

liberty

(13)

indifference

(8)

cute

(13)

How can these animals be useful to humans?

eat

(46)

eat

(31)

eat

(47)

home

(14)

waste

(25)

insect

(39)

nothing

(14)

nothing

(21)

garden

(22)

What inconvenience or nuisance do each animal cause?

droppings

(77)

disease

(81)

flea

(9)

disease

(24)

carrier

(17)

garden

(6)

dirt

(21)

dirt; eat

(11; 11)

disease

(4)

In brackets, the number of times the word was given by respondents

Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.

31If we are particularly interested in what displeased people associated with the presence of pigeons in the city, the most quoted words are: [their] "droppings", [the fact that they are] "everywhere" and "nothing" (appendix I.A, table 3). The most mentioned inconveniences for pigeons are: "droppings", "disease" and "dirt" (figure 8A, table 3). The presence of droppings and the large number of pigeons, considered to be dirty and carriers of disease, seem to constitute the rejection factors of the pigeon by the urban population in Paris.

Figure 8: Word clouds with the answers of "What inconvenience or nuisance do each animal cause? "

Figure 8: Word clouds with the answers of "What inconvenience or nuisance do each animal cause? "

Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.

32The fact that this species is a bird with colors nuance this aversion. The respondents like about pigeons: "nothing", "color" and "bird" (appendix II.A, table 3). The feelings the most associated with pigeons are: "disgust", "indifference" and "liberty" (appendix III.A, table 3).

33The three words most cited by the respondents about what they dislike about rats are: "disease", "dirty" and "carrier" (appendix I.B, table 3). The inconveniences the most cited for rats are: "disease", "carrier" and "dirt" (figure 9B, table 3). The negative assessment of the rat appears to be mainly associated with the risk of transmission of potential diseases and the alleged dirt of the species. Considering the positive aspects associated with rats by respondents: "nothing", [the fact that they are] "intelligent" and [their] "intelligence" (appendix II.B, table 3). The lack of quality recognized by the population seems significant for rats, although their supposed intelligence is nevertheless emphasized. The feelings the most associated with rats are: "disgust", "fear" and "indifference" (appendix III.B, table 3).

34For hedgehog, the most cited qualifiers are more and essentially positives: "cute", "sympathetic" and "spiky" (figure 7C, table 3). The respondents dislike about hedgehog: "nothing" for a large majority of respondents, but "flea" and "pike" are also reported for some of them (appendix I.C, table 3). However, people like that they are: "cute", "little" and [their] "look", "nature" and "useful" (appendix II.C, table 3). The feelings the most associated with hedgehogs are: "joy", "tenderness" and "cute" (appendix III.C, table 3). The inconveniences cause by hedgehogs according to respondents are: "flea", "garden" (damages?), "disease" and "pike" (figure 8C, table 3). Even in the case of the hedgehog, the risk of disease transmission remains present.

35The physical appearance of animals therefore seems to influence the appreciation of these species and can even impact people about species conservation (Roque De Pinho et al., 2014). Indeed, fear and avoidance of an animal is, according to Merckelbach and his colleagues, particularly related to the physical characteristics of these animals (Merckelbach et al., 1987). Pigeons are often mutilated or in bad condition, which can make them seem "dirtier" or "carrier" of "disease". The physical characteristics of animals can also make them "bad" animals, like the sharp teeth and claws (Lee, 2012) found in the rat. The teeth of the rat can make people "fear" bites even if they are rare (1 per 10,000 people in the USA in the 60’s; Clinton, 1969) and the claws scratches and make it "dangerous". The fear of bites is a factor of apprehension. The images of this animal conveyed in video games, comics (big teeth, Machiavellian spirit, etc.) also contribute to maintain this apprehension. On the contrary, the hedgehog has a friendlier and reassuring appearance especially due to its "look" as a "little" ball shape that makes it "cute" and "sympathetic". This could be due to the fact that hedgehogs have neotenic characteristics (i.e. babies’ characteristics) such as proportionally larger head or eyes or unsteady gait. According to Estren (2012), this type of animal characteristics leads humans, public and scientists, to better consider these animals. The term "sympathetic", which has been formulated several times by the populations surveyed, testifies to the extreme subjectivity in the appreciation of these animals and the role of appearance in the relation between human and the animals. This is in line again with Serpell's study (2004) in which the attitude to animal is mainly influenced by "affect" and "utility". Serpell makes this hypothesis based in particular on the work of Kellert and Berry (1980), who found that the attitudes towards animals considered most present in the United States at that time were humanistic (with a primary interest in and strong affection for individual animals; 35% of the population) and utilitarian (primary concern for the practical and material value of the animal or its habitat; 20% of the population). Of course, these two dimensions - affect and utility - do not explain an entire attitude towards an animal, and it also depends on other factors, both intrinsic and extrinsic to the animal. Thus, we can notice that the "spiky" side due to the "spikes" of the hedgehog is not appreciated by some people who see it as a disadvantage.

36The behaviour of the animal that it is expected supposed to have or observed is also important in its appreciation by humans. For example, people prefer animals that behave similar to humans (Batt, 2009). The three animals studied have very different behaviours and can even evoke opposing feelings for the same animal: the "invasive" side of group pigeons (which is "everywhere") versus the feeling of "liberty" of a pigeon in flight or echoes with the symbol of peace attributed to the dove. The rat appears as an "intelligent" being, a rare quality that is recognized, but this "intelligence" can also be seen negatively as something to beware. The hedgehog is discreet and seems to move more slowly, which can contribute to the fact that it is so appreciated, unlike pigeons that are judged "noisy" by some. The supposed behaviours may be wrong: for example, some people seem to think that the hedgehog causes damages to the "garden" while they eat slugs (Haigh, 2011) known to be crop pests (Hommay et al., 1998; Schley, Bees, 2003; Clemente et al., 2010).

37The health and hygiene aspect are something that comes up on various questions and for the three animals (even if much less for the hedgehog): the "droppings" for the pigeon, the "dirt/dirty" for the pigeon and the rat, "carrier" [of disease] and the "dangerous" and "harmful" side for rat, the "diseases" for the three animals, "flea" for hedgehog. The droppings are known to be dirty but also to damage the buildings (Gómez-Heras et al., 2004). They can be a disadvantage directly experienced by city dwellers, while the fear of diseases can be accentuated by preconceptions or historical facts such as the plague associated to rats. This aspect explains why the pigeon and the rat, considered above all as "dirty", are associated mainly with a feeling of "disgust". According to Matchett and Davey (1991), animal phobia is linked to sensitivity to disgust and contamination and fear of disease and death. As stated in the later study, sensibility to disgust and contamination is only linked to the fear of certain animals, that is to say, those who attack little and do little harm to humans such as rats or those that cause revulsion like snails, slugs, etc. The group of basic animals constituting the relevant category to disgust is globally similar between cultures (Davey et al., 1998). It is therefore logical that the rat scored so low in our survey, given its association with disgust and contamination.

An appreciation that evolves over time and remains a function of location

38Nevertheless, the appreciation of these species seems to vary over time and space. For instance, pigeons were used as messengers notably during the two world wars (Jerolmack, 2007) and their droppings were also used as fertilizer in agriculture (Jerolmack, 2007). Thus, Jerolmack concluded that the pigeon was more appreciated in the past, at a time where it was useful for humans (Jerolmack, 2008). For example, in the United States, pigeon became less and less appreciated during the 20th century (Jerolmack, 2008). Even in Venice's Piazza San Marco and London's Trafalgar Square, where pigeons once enjoyed exceptional status as tourist icons, they are now reclassified as pests and eradicated (Jerolmack, 2013). However, in the Maghreb (Northern Africa), the pigeons are still bred and consumed especially in the form of the traditional dish, the Pigeon Pastilla (Hal, 2012). This may explain why pigeons are more appreciated in this region in comparison to Paris.

39The rat has been associated with the plague at least since the discovery of the bacillus responsible for the disease by Dr. Yersin in the late nineteenth century (Treille, Yersin, 1894) and is associated with dirt, evil, vice, disease, etc., and considered as vermin (Fissell, 1999) or associated with economic loss (Burt, 2006). Yet, in the United States, the rat was more appreciated in 2014 than in 1978 (George et al., 2016), as it became a new pet (Dutau, Rancé, 2009), reinforcing its good perception for some parts of the population, as for example, teenagers (who were not represented in our study). Regarding the hedgehog, we think that becoming a protected species in France in 1981 (Order of 17 April 1981) could have made it more popular, and even if it is not (yet) considered as a threatened species, its French population could be in decline, like the one in Britain (Pettett et al., 2018), which could attract compassion.

40Regarding the interaction between the species and the place where the questionnaire was conducted, people hate the presence of pigeons more in touristic places than in parks and/or railway stations (figure 9). We found significant interactions between the species and the place of survey (χ28 = 15.51, P = 0.05). Moreover, the people interviewed in touristic areas (Nemenyi test: P = 0.06), shared gardens (P = 0.78) and cemeteries (P = 0.30) disliked pigeons and rats similarly whereas respondents in parks (P < 0.0001) and train stations (P = 0.01) prefered pigeons to rats.

Figure 9: Mean appreciation of species by respondents by frequency of observation of species and by species

Figure 9: Mean appreciation of species by respondents by frequency of observation of species and by species

Error bars indicate the standard error of the mean. For pigeons rarely seen, there is no standard error because the effective is only one.

Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.

41This reinforced the conclusion of Skandrani et al. (2015), people would be more indifferent to pigeons in parks and train stations than in touristic place because people interacted less with pigeons in these two places than in touristic places (Skandrani et al., 2015). The presence of pigeons can be seen as a nuisance at a time when visitors wish to enjoy the contemplation of a monument or landscape, and are therefore attentive to their direct surroundings. The presence of pigeons, however, is part of the landscape and images associated with certain sites, such as Piazza San Marco in Venice. In this case, pigeons are appreciated in a different way by tourists, who take photos with these birds and feed them on purpose to attract them, especially when accompanied by children. People would be more indifferent to pigeons in train stations insofar as their minds are occupied with the objective of travel or displacement. The reaction to the presence of pigeons is likely to be different if the traveler's meal is disturbed by the birds' incursions onto the terrace, for example. In parks, pigeons can be easily assimilated into the landscape and the fact that the walk or sporting activity corresponds to a moment of relaxation can also favourably influence the appreciation of the animal's presence.

42Our results also revealed that the relationship between the frequency of observation of a species and its appreciation differs from animal to another. Even if our generalized mixed model did not find any effect of the frequency of the animals' observation, the Kruskal and Wallis test and the Nemenyi test found a difference of appreciation between "often-sometimes" and "never". People tend to love an animal more when they never see it than when they often see it. When we focused only on pigeon, the respondents that never see pigeon tended to better appreciate it than respondents who often see it (Nemenyi test, P = 0.07; figure 5). The qualifiers associated with animals often used are "dirty" (57 times), "invasive" (32 times) and "numerous" (13 times). Pigeons being more loved when less seen, corresponds to finding about other species such as the ring-necked parakeet, a species that is becoming invasive in Paris (Berthier et al., 2017).

43This trend was not found for rats (figure 5) but an opposite difference was observed for the hedgehogs (Nemenyi test, P = 0.045; figure 5). This difference can be explained by the fact that hedgehogs are in general loved and never seen and pigeons are less appreciated and often seen. The San Joaquin kit fox, an endangered species, is, like the hedgehog, more liked when he is more met (Bjurlin, Cypher, 2005). We can think that the animals often seen (seen too much?) are more appreciated when they are less seen (and seem less invasive), while the more rare and discreet species provide a certain joy when they are seen because of their rarity. The "invasive" term used to qualify the pigeon is indicative of the effect that density can play a role in this perception. These high pigeon densities are often due to the fact that they are fed by city dwellers in certain places. The majority of wild animal feeders in the city do so to be useful or to do a good deed for the animals, i.e. for eco-centric reasons, as do people who don't feed them, believing that feeding doesn't help them (Georges et al., 2022). The droppings are also deplored when they pollute and massively damage monuments and balconies (Perry et al., 2020). In the same way, the complaints against rats are formulated especially more in the cases of massive infestation like in Parisian public squares (Celsalab, 2017).

A poorly understood species

44The appreciation of animals can also be very subjective (Serpell speaks of individual characteristics of the person, Serpell, 2004) and not justified: the negative appreciation of the pigeon is not necessarily justified by precise qualifiers: high proportion of "nothing" to answer "What do you dislike in pigeon?". This may illustrate the fact that people who dislike pigeons are not necessarily aware of the reasons why they dislike this animal, but these results are also consistent with the fact that many people surveyed are indifferent to pigeons.

45In fact, the species considered seem poorly known. For example, people think that it is the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) currently present in Paris that would have been vector of the plague, but its arrival in Europe dates from 1500 (Puckett et al., 2016) and the greatest episode of plague called "black death" dates back to 1348 (Gottfried, 2010). It is therefore the black rat (Rattus rattus), which arrived long before, which would have been the vector of the disease (McCormick, 2003). Fear of rat can be partially explained by the tenacious images associated with this animal, inherited from received ideas that are sometimes mythical (Audoin-Rouzeau F., 2020) more than a real knowledge of the animal. Regarding the hedgehog, even if most people do not know, is also a carrier of zoonosis (Riley, Chomel, 2005) or parasites transmissible to humans (Skuballa et al., 2007). Although the transmitted diseases of these animals to humans (i.e. zoonosis) are often mentioned, very few are cited as examples. The pigeons can transmit to the human: chlamydia, histoplasmosis, aspergillosis, candidiasis, cryptococcosis (Haag-Wackernagel, Moch, 2004); rats: leptospirosis, hantavirus (Ayral, 2015), plague, typhus, bartonellosis, streptobacillosis, salmonellosis (Himsworth et al., 2013) and hedgehogs: salmonellosis, chlamydia, toxoplasmosis, foot-and-mouth disease and herpes virus (Riley, Chomel, 2005).

46It may be noted that another feeling often associated with pigeons and rats is "indifference"; which seems quite consistent for the pigeon for which many people gave a medium appreciation but less for the rat which has a very low appreciation (on 8 people indifferent to the rat, 2 gave an appreciation of 5 and 6 a lower or equal at 3). On the contrary, the hedgehog is always associated with positive feelings: like "joy" and "tenderness", despite the pathologies it may carry.

Conclusion and perspectives

47At this stage, it seems that the utility associated with each species may play a role in city dwellers' appreciation, and thus influence their acceptability. To go further, it might be interesting to do the same questionnaire on other animal or plant species present in the city, or to repeat this questionnaire in a few years to see if the appreciation of these species changes over time.

48Insofar as the appreciation of the species studied in this work is strongly associated with subjective factors and individual and collective feelings, we can presume with Qiu et al., who have shown ecological knowledge can influence the preferences of certain aspects of biodiversity (Qiu et al., 2013), that a better understanding of the potential ecosystem services provided by animal (or plant) species in the urban environment could influence their perception by the public and improve their acceptability. We can therefore think that bringing knowledge about the services provided by unpopular spontaneous species like the pigeon or the rat could improve the vision that city dwellers have of them. This knowledge could be brought directly to citizens in the form of a flyer, documentary or by involving them in participative sciences what will be a next step in this research work.

49A better opinion of urban animals would help to instill positive rather than negative emotions and experiences of nature in city dwellers who cross paths with these animals. What's more, it could spare the lives of certain animals whose populations are still lethally regulated. City dwellers and urban animals would therefore have everything to gain from living side by side.

50It might also be a good idea to do it in different cities around the world to observe the cultural differences in terms of perception and appreciation of the three species studied and many others, so as to consider in particular the extent to which service or benefit criteria play a part in their acceptability in an urban environment.

51More generally, this work raises the question of the relevance of the notion of service, utility and benefit applied to the protection and promotion of biodiversity, whether in urban environments or elsewhere. This questioning is part of a reflection that integrates the anthropocentric essence of the concept of ecosystem service (Maris, 2014) and its inclusion in an approach inserted into a capitalist (Maris, 2014; Porcher, 2019) and ressourcist (Michalon, 2018) vision of human-animal and human-nature relations in general, inspired by Western naturalist ontology (Descola, 2015; Stepanoff, 2021) and the de-subjectivization of the relationship to animals.

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Annexe

Appendix I: Word clouds with the answers of "What do you dislike in each animal?"

Appendix I: Word clouds with the answers of "What do you dislike in each animal?"

Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.

Appendix II: Word clouds with the answers of "What do you like in each animal?"

Appendix II: Word clouds with the answers of "What do you like in each animal?"

Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.

Appendix III: Word clouds with the answers of "What emotion(s) or feeling(s) do you associate with each animal?"

Appendix III: Word clouds with the answers of "What emotion(s) or feeling(s) do you associate with each animal?"

Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Map of Paris with the numbers of questionnaires in bold and the neighborhood social classes
Crédits Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/41102/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 460k
Titre Figure 2: Age pyramid of respondents
Légende The numbers next to the bars correspond to the numbers of people per age group.
Crédits Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/41102/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 10k
Titre Figure 3: Word cloud with the field of work or education of the respondents
Légende Only word mentioned at least three times appear. The forms used are verbs, common nouns and adjectives. The verbs are back to the infinitive, the names are back to the singular.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/41102/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 142k
Titre Figure 4: Histograms of the number of respondents based on the respondents' appreciation about pigeon, rat and hedgehog
Crédits Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/41102/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 43k
Titre Figure 5: Mean appreciation of species by respondents (between 0 and 10) by the estimated utility of species according to respondents (between 0 and 10) by species
Légende P: pigeon, R: rat and H: hedgehog. Error bars indicate the standard error of the mean.
Crédits Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/41102/img-5.png
Fichier image/png, 20k
Titre Figure 6: Word clouds with the answers of "How can these animals be useful to humans?"
Crédits Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/41102/img-6.png
Fichier image/png, 66k
Titre Figure 7: Word clouds with the answers of "Give three qualifiers to designate each animal"
Crédits Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/41102/img-7.png
Fichier image/png, 164k
Titre Figure 8: Word clouds with the answers of "What inconvenience or nuisance do each animal cause? "
Crédits Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/41102/img-8.png
Fichier image/png, 161k
Titre Figure 9: Mean appreciation of species by respondents by frequency of observation of species and by species
Légende Error bars indicate the standard error of the mean. For pigeons rarely seen, there is no standard error because the effective is only one.
Crédits Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/41102/img-9.png
Fichier image/png, 19k
Titre Appendix I: Word clouds with the answers of "What do you dislike in each animal?"
Crédits Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/41102/img-10.png
Fichier image/png, 45k
Titre Appendix II: Word clouds with the answers of "What do you like in each animal?"
Crédits Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/41102/img-11.png
Fichier image/png, 39k
Titre Appendix III: Word clouds with the answers of "What emotion(s) or feeling(s) do you associate with each animal?"
Crédits Duffaut, Gasparini, Brondeau, 2023.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/41102/img-12.png
Fichier image/png, 40k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Chloé Duffaut, Florence Brondeau et Julien Gasparini, « Exploring human appreciation and perception of spontaneous urban fauna in Paris, France », Cybergeo: European Journal of Geography [En ligne], Environnement, Nature, Paysage, document 1069, mis en ligne le 10 juin 2024, consulté le 14 juin 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/41102 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/11s92

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Auteurs

Chloé Duffaut

Sorbonne Université, Institut d’Écologie et des Sciences de l’Environnement de Paris, Doctorante, France, chloe.duffaut@yahoo.fr

Florence Brondeau

Sorbonne-Université Lettres, UR Médiations, Sciences des Lieux, Science des liens, Maîtresse de Conférences, France, florence.brondeau@sorbonne-universite.fr

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Julien Gasparini

Sorbonne Université, Institut d’Écologie et des Sciences de l’Environnement de Paris, Professeur, France, julien.gasparini@sorbonne-université.fr

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Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

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