discussion / Human-Wildlife Conflict  / 19 July 2017

Seeking collaboration and co-financing for PhD research: How land tenure arrangements impact upon illegal hunting in Sub-Saharan Africa

Friends and fellow researchers in the WILDLABS community I would like to hear your valuable opinions on the doctoral research project I am about to embark upon. I have been successful in receiving a partial grant for this research and now I would like to find organisations and collaborators who are interested in co-financing or would like to contribute their knowledge and expertise to the project.

As many of you will be aware academic studies indicate that the Earth is undergoing a sixth mass extinction with IUCN Red List data showing that close to one third of terrestrial mammals are threatened with extinction primarily due to human hunting. Land management arrangements are one of the key factors that determine the permeability of threats to wildlife in the landscape, understanding the impact this has on specie numbers is vital to guiding conservation planning and law enforcement efforts. 

This research will focus on mammals in Sub-Saharan Africa that are experiencing a collapse in population numbers. This research seeks to identify correlations between land ownership arrangements and local hunting dynamics. The relationship between land ownership and its impact on levels of mammal defaunation has not been widely studied, hence this PhD project will contribute to filling this research gap. The research will overlay datasets on illicit hunting/poaching incidents with land tenure maps to find statistically significant correlations between the two. Several countries have been identified in Sub-Saharan Africa where datasets are available. I am waiting for data permissions and research permits to be granted before I have site specificities but the study will be conducted in the transfrontier zone of Kavango Zambezi. The quantative data analysis will be complemented by case studies using semi-structured interviews across different land management sites including communal, government and privately owned land in-order to answer the following research questions:

— To what extent are hunting laws clearly defined and penalties known and enforced; how does this vary across the different land management types?
— How do the hunting methods used e.g. firearms and/or snares, vary across the different land management types? 
— Are those who hunt, consume or sell wildmeat aware of the species under stress and/or do they express concern over the vulnerability level; how does this vary between different user groups and across sites.
— Which land management arrangement correlates with the highest/lowest level of bushmeat extraction/retention? (This question will be answered through the quantitative data analysis.

The investigation aims to provide recommendations for improving law enforcement and wildlife conservation planning. The findings from this project will be fed directly to the local Wildlife Services and NGOs and the methodology will be replicated in other countries later in the PhD. Analysing in-situ dynamics of illicit hunting under varied ownership systems can inform government management on where to focus anti-poaching activities.

If anyone in the community would be interested in collaborating on this project, please send me a personal message and I would be happy to arrange a Skype meeting to explain more details. I have received partial funding for the first year of the PhD via a grant from the International Safari Club and now I am seeking co-financing in the range of £10-15k, if you know of any relevant grant sources this would be much appreciated.

For the research results from a study I conducted last year with support from the WILDLABS, see here: https://www.wildlabs.net/resources/thought-pieces/how-do-wildlife-crime-experts-view-remote-sensing-technologies-used-combat

All comments are warmly welcome!