Emergence of the “Howling Foxes”: A Semiotic Analysis of Initial Interpretations of the Golden Jackal (Canis aureus) in Estonia

Biosemiotics 8 (3):463-482 (2015)
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Abstract

The article attempts to bridge semiotics with species conservation and management. Biosemiotic and cultural semiotic methodology is applied in the analysis of a case study – the early occurrence of the golden jackal in Estonia. Nine semi-structured interviews were carried out with the local inhabitants of the Matsalu region, professional zoologists and environmental officials who were involved in the golden jackals’ discourse. The interviews were analyzed for interactions between golden jackals and humans, expected ecological effects of golden jackals, communication between different interest groups and central cultural motifs used to interpret the new species. It is argued that in the development of this discourse, the golden jackals’ own activity has played an essential role. At the same time, human cultural models also influence the interpretation of a new species to a considerable degree. Two of such models – the opposition of the own and the alien and the “settler’s” narrative – are brought out and analyzed. The effect of the fear of the unknown is also specified. To improve human communication about new or invasive species, it is suggested to raise awareness of the underlying cultural models and to use integrative communication as the developing discourse is dynamical and constantly changing for all interest groups. For a semiotic study of species management, it is suggested to combine methodology from biosemiotics, cultural semiotics and actor-network theory

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References found in this work

We have never been modern.Bruno Latour - 1993 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
On the semiosphere.Juri Lotman & Wilma Clark - 2005 - Sign Systems Studies 33 (1):205-226.
Semiotic ecology: different natures in the semiosphere.Kalevi Kull - 1998 - Sign Systems Studies 26 (1):344-371.

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