The curious case of the lion from Berlin in summer’ 23: how Internet media shapes risk perception from wildlife-human conflict
Introduction. This paper explores the reactions of citizens to a perceived security risk at the human-wildlife interface mediated by social and traditional media sources. We take the case study of a reported ‘lioness’ appearing in the outskirts of Berlin as a risk to human and domestic animal life, sparking media frenzies.
Methods. The subjects’ reactions to and perceptions of risk can be analysed through a mixed-methods (quantitative and qualitative) approach to information obtained via the respective media channels in covering the phenomenon as a newsworthy event of this research identifies three distinct peaks in public interest and response.
Results. Following a Foucauldian tradition of problematisation, and a scholarship of critical media studies, we demonstrate that the ordering of animals in relation to society allows for a normalisation of certain threats from human-wildlife conflict while placing others in a state of exception which needs immediate action. We do not take the social conditions of predator-prey relations as a given, but seek to ‘de-normalise’ them and question the level of risk constructed, which plays out across public and media spheres and may carry over into human-wildlife conflicts. Our case study shows how social media posts can lead to the emergence of a perceived risk to society, which is reacted to dramatically, and whose emergency situation becomes a newsworthy event that confirms and seems to justify the level of security measures taken. The engagement of citizens online and with the emergency response teams can be viewed as overreacting to the situations based on having a real sense of danger of a ‘lioness’ penetrating their interactions with larger wildlife.
Conclusions: That is, until it is determined that no immediate risk exists, and the actions taken are critiqued as a hysterical misinformed approach of ‘city dwelling’ officials lacking knowledge of wildlife in one’s region. We then speculate about what ethical and political repercussions this may create for multispecies co-existence with predators and pests in Germany.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Jordan Oelke , Andrzej Jarynowski, Vitaly Belik
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