About This ProjectPartnerships and perceptions are key players in curbing poaching and advancing development in rural South Africa. I'm researching the impact of partnerships between privately owned protected areas and adjacent rural communities in the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere (K2C). The motive of my project is to facilitate economic and social development and the conservation of wildlife in the K2C through partnership building.
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What is the context of this research?
Biosphere Reserves are internationally important ecosystems that occur with human settlements, and are established to address simultaneous goals of conservation of biodiversity and community development. Intensified rhinoceros poaching in the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere region has resulted in hardening of borders between the protected ecosystem areas and adjacent rural communities, with fewer partnerships between communities and protected area management.
The result of reduced partnerships may be unmet community development goals and a negative perception regarding the conservation of biodiversity. This could drive community members to illegally harvest natural resources within protected areas—further amplifying poaching pressure and exacerbating the cycle.
What is the significance of this project?
One of the greatest determinants of the continued integrity of nature reserves is support from the surrounding communities. The perceptions of community members regarding conservation sentiment and development expectations and outcomes will play a significant role in the security and sustainability of protected areas.
It is important to better understand the hypothesized cycle between partnerships, perceptions, and poaching so that simultaneous goals of development and conservation can be better addressed. Lessons on addressing conservation and development goals can then be applied to other Biosphere Reserves or areas where rural or impoverished communities occur within ecologically important regions.
What are the goals of the project?
I will investigate four research objectives:
1) Identify the motivators and deterrents for private reserve managers and owners to initiate partnership building programs;
2) Determine the efficacy of, and relationship between different types of partnership programs on impacting community member perceptions of development outcomes and conservation sentiment;
3) Determine if the perceptions of community members regarding development expectations and conservation sentiment impact poaching pressure;
4) Explore the feasibility of partnership building as a proactive management strategy for intervention of the partnership-perception-poaching cycle.
Experiment backers will cover some of the cost of international travel for the researcher, as well as costs of interview personnel and supplies. This includes the hiring of a translator, daily transportation, as well as a tablet device and software for interview data collection.
Any funding donated beyond the goal will be applied to an additional round trip flight to the study area following data collection and analysis, so the results can be presented to reserve managers and communities. This final step in the dissertation process is the most impactful! It allows the new knowledge to be transferred to stakeholders so it can be considered in management decisions.
Meet the Team
Team BioI received my Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Kansas, and my Master’s degree in Conservation Biology from Victoria University of Wellington, and am currently a doctoral student at Texas A&M University in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management. My research interests have evolved from the biological to the social as I became more aware of the limiting factor anthropological forces have on the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable management of natural resources.
Travel in Australia and New Zealand whet my appetite for the Southern Hemisphere, and my time so far at the University of Witwatersrand Rural Facility in South Africa has been a joy! When not perusing scientific articles, I love to practice yoga and watch Jayhawk basketball and Aggie football. Rock Chalk and Gig ‘em!
Blyde River Canyon in the west of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere.
Electrified fences are the physical structures separating wildlife reserves from rural neighboring communities. Additional protective measures include tracker dogs, armed guards, and drones.
A home and yard in the Bushbuckridge municipality within the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere.
Partnership, Perception, and Poaching: The Impact of Partnership Building on Development and Conservation Sentiment in the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere. A conceptual model of the elements to be studied and their relationship with each other.
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