Community Perceptions and Attitudes Regarding Wildlife Crime in South Africa
Wildlife crime is a complex problem with many interconnected facets, which are generally responded to in parts or fragments in efforts to “break down” the complexity into manageable components. However, fragmentation increases complexity as coherence and cooperation become diluted. A whole-of-society approach has been developed towards finding a common goal and integrated approach to preventing wildlife crime. As part of this development, research was conducted in rural communities adjacent to conservation areas in South Africa to define and comprehend the challenges faced by them, and to understand their perceptions of wildlife crime. The results of the research showed that the perceptions of community members varied - most were in favor of conservation and of protecting rhinos, only if they derive adequate benefit from it. Regardless of gender, income level, education level, or access to services, conservation was perceived to be good and bad by the same people. Even though people in the communities are poor, a willingness to stop rhino poaching does exist amongst them, but their perception of parks not caring about people triggered an attitude of not being willing to stop, prevent or report poaching. Understanding the nuances, the history, the interests and values of community members, and the drivers behind poaching mind-sets (intrinsic or driven by transnational organized crime) is imperative to create sustainable and resilient communities on multiple levels that make a substantial positive impact on people’s lives, but also conserve wildlife for posterity.
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