Participation by local communities in management is widely considered a means of sustaining protected areas. In parts of the world with a history of armed conflict, the chances of such an approach being successfully adopted might seem remote. One such area is the Maputo Elephant Reserve in southern Mozambique. The aim was to improve understanding of the local people's use of natural resources and perceptions of the Reserve's impact. Interviews and questionnaires distributed in four different villages were used to estimate the relative value of these resources in relation to the attitude of the local people towards the Reserve. The people gave a relative value rank for each specific use of each plant, animal and fish resource. On average 60% of the households exploited more than two different resource categories. The plant resources of the Reserve were used by 71% of the households and were valued more highly than animal and fish resources. Plants were used for many purposes; construction material, fuelwood and fruits had the highest relative values. Antelopes, hippopotamus and elephants were valued highest amongst a range of animal species which were hunted by 21% of households. Amongst uses of animals, consumption, use of the skins and commercial sale of the meat were especially important. When asked if they liked the Reserve, 88% of respondents answered positively. The attitude towards the Reserve was correlated with crop damage experiences; people with crop damage caused by elephants, hippos or bushpigs, were more negative. Attitude of respondents was inversely related to the number of species invading their agricultural fields. Resource use intensity, use purpose, resource value and attitude were different amongst sites and dependent on site-specific circumstances, different management strategies could be necessary for the four sites. A resource management plan should be drawn up, local people should be included in the management team and steps should be taken to improve the relationship between the Reserve's authorities and the local population generally.
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