Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Travel medicine meets conservation medicine in St. Kitts: disinhibition, cognitive-affective inconsistency, and disease risk among vacationers around green monkeys (Chlorocebus sabaeus).

Abstract

Despite concern about environmental protection, travelers often underestimate the contribution they may have to disease transmission to other species, as well as the risk of becoming infected themselves. Tourists in general tend to accept more physical risks when traveling than when at home, and much of this can be blamed on the temporary loss of situational awareness and loss of inhibition with a corresponding relaxed attitude toward safety. To better understand environmental attitudes and travel health knowledge and behaviors, a detailed survey of adult tourists was distributed on the island of St. Kitts, home to many green monkeys. Data from 1097 respondents were collected at two locations where cruise ship passengers typically visit the island. Results revealed that even though individuals with more positive environmental attitudes were more willing to take steps to mitigate tourism-related disease transmission, they were also more likely to report wanting to touch or feed a monkey/ape. Similarly, those more willing to prevent the spread of diseases (e.g., wear a mask and report any illnesses to park authorities) were actually more likely to want to touch or feed a monkey/ape. The human desire for physical contact with other species may be partly the result of biophilia, emotionally arousing events (like contact with exotic species) that can lead to further disinhibition, and social media platforms that provide opportunities for exhibitionism. The attitude-behavior incongruency identified here may also be explained through cognitive-affective inconsistency: environmentally-oriented individuals believe that it is prudent to take steps to prevent zoonotic disease transmission but also desire to touch or feed exotic species as it may be emotionally rewarding. Individuals for whom physically interacting with monkeys/apes may be emotionally rewarding may not alter their behavior in response to cognitive means of persuasion; techniques aimed at appealing to emotions may be more effective.