Perceptions and Behaviors of Indigenous Populations Regarding Illegal Use of Protected Area Resources in East Africa’s Mountain Gorilla Landscape

Abstract

Illegal activities and use of park resources are the main challenges facing mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) conservation and the protection of their habitats in the East Africa’s Greater Virunga Transboundary Landscape (GVTL). Indigenous residents around GVTL are considered the primary illegal users of park resources. Despite this, there is limited understanding of the current and past perceptions of indigenous residents living in communities adjacent to two GVTL parks; Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. Equally, there is also limited understanding regarding the actual incidences of illegal activities inside both parks. This paper addresses these gaps. Perception data were collected from indigenous residents living adjacent to both parks. Further, Ranger-based Monitoring (RbM) data from both parks were analyzed to determine actual numbers and types of illegal activities over the 9-year period. Interestingly, findings indicated that residents perceived the prevalence of illegal activities to be decreasing across GVTL. To the contrary, RbM findings indicated that the number of actual illegal activities was increasing significantly, particularly in Volcanoes National Park. The discrepancy found between the two perspectives provides for a discussion of the social biases potentially present in these data, and their implications for management. Results also illuminated the subsistence-related nature of most illegal behaviors and suggest that to reduce illegal activities and local dependency on park resources, park management must work with communities and support them in tapping into alternative livelihoods and finding ways to address community household subsistence needs.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by the United Fish and Wildlife Services Grant Number 2021352.

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Correspondence to Edwin Sabuhoro.

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Sabuhoro, E., Wright, B.A., Powell, R.B. et al. Perceptions and Behaviors of Indigenous Populations Regarding Illegal Use of Protected Area Resources in East Africa’s Mountain Gorilla Landscape. Environmental Management 65, 410–419 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-020-01254-z

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Keywords

  • Conservation
  • Transboundary
  • Illegal use
  • Livelihoods
  • National parks
  • Indigenous