Wildlife totemization

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Wildlife totemization is a system of beliefs in which humans have mystical, emotional, reverential, or genealogical relationships with a totem that is a natural object, such as a plant or animal.[1]


Wildlife totemization goes some way towards explaining why some wildlife management programs are particularly controversial. The general hypothesis is similar to wildlife symbolism, in that both theories state that in certain circumstances, humans will imbue species of wildlife with characteristics that are not necessarily inherent in those species themselves.


Characteristics of totemization include:

  • Viewing the totem as a companion, a protector, or a progenitor
  • Assimilating oneself to the totem
  • Prohibiting the killing or eating of the totem
  • A high degree of antipathy towards those who destroy the totem


  1. ^ Hamazaki, T, Tanno, D. (2002). Totemization of wildlife and NIMBY among U.S. college students. Human Dimensions of Wildlife 7, 107-121.


  • Kalland, A. (1993). Management by totemization: Whale symbolism and the anti-whaling campaign. Arctic 46(2), 124-133.
  • Nimmo, D. G., Miller, K., & Adams, R. (2007). Managing feral horses in Victoria: A study of community attitudes and perceptions. Ecological Management & Restoration 8 (3), 237–243