Two issues of central importance to conservation are developing an improved understanding of the relative roles of state protected areas and local institutions and developing effective strategies for creating community-based incentives for conservation. We provide a case study of northern Tanzania’s Maasai Steppe to explore these issues in the context of a savannah ecosystem where wildlife is mobile and depends extensively on community lands for seasonal habitats. We compare the impacts and outcomes of four approaches to developing local incentives for wildlife conservation on community lands: protected area benefit-sharing, trophy hunting donations, village–private tourism concession contracts, and a direct payment scheme for habitat conservation. Tourism and direct payment concession areas have resulted in large areas of community land being protected for wildlife by villages as a result of the conditional and contractual nature of these ventures. By contrast, other approaches that provide economic benefits to communities but are not conditional on defined conservation actions at the local level demonstrate little impact on wildlife conservation on community lands. In spatially extensive ecosystems where protected areas cover limited areas and wildlife relies heavily on community and private lands, strategies based on maximizing the direct income of communities from wildlife are fundamental to the sustainability of such systems.
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