Local community benefits from elephants: Can willingness to support anti-poaching efforts be strengthened?

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Ngorima, Agripa
Brown, Abigail
Masunungure, Current
Biggs, Duan
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Poaching of Africa's elephants has led to substantial population declines over the last decade. Local communities coexisting with elephants can play an important role in strengthening protection measures against poaching. Our paper empirically examined how the spread of costs and benefits associated with elephants, and associated ownership rights, influenced community attitudes to support anti‐poaching activities. Based on surveys of 90 community members in the Zimbabwean part of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, our results show that 92% of the respondents were unwilling to engage in conservation activities due to lack of financial gain from elephants. Local communities identified numerous benefits and costs associated with elephants. The majority (54%) of community members identified meat from the elephant as an essential benefit to their livelihoods. The most significant cost identified by the majority (60%) of respondents was crop destruction. The reported costs influenced villagers' perceptions of elephants with 71% of respondents stating that continued incurred costs has reduced their willingness to participate in conservation activities. More so, the majority (88%) of respondents indicated that these costs have led to locals supporting actions to reduce elephant numbers. Furthermore, 82% of respondents indicated a lack of remorse when an elephant was killed after destroying their crops, and 95% of community members identified that feelings of bitterness toward elephants increased as they encountered costs. Our results suggest that gaining local support for elephant conservation to be more sustainable in low income regions, the overall benefits from elephants should outweigh the costs they impose.

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Conservation Science and Practice

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© 2020 The Authors. Conservation Science and Practice published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Conservation Biology. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Ngorima, A; Brown, A; Masunungure, C; Biggs, D, Local community benefits from elephants: Can willingness to support anti-poaching efforts be strengthened?, Conservation Science and Practice, 2020