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A tale of three villages: choosing an effective method for assessing poaching levels in western Serengeti, Tanzania

  • Eli J. Knapp (a1), Dennis Rentsch (a1), Jennifer Schmitt (a1), Claire Lewis (a2) and Stephen Polasky (a3)...

Poaching for bushmeat is a major problem for conservation of wildlife populations in many parts of Africa, including the Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania. However, the severity of the poaching problem is often unclear because of a lack of accurate data. Directly asking people to self-report illegal activity faces the obvious problem of under-reporting. Use of arrest records from anti-poaching patrols may reflect levels of poaching activity but could also be driven by funding and quality of anti-poaching efforts. A third method, assessing poaching by asking about bushmeat consumption, is indirect, possibly subject to under-reporting, and also subject to limits on the accuracy of memory of respondents. We compare rates of poaching derived by self-assessment of poaching activities (based on household interviews), dietary recall of bushmeat consumption over a variety of time frames, and arrest records from anti-poaching units. We apply these three methods to assess poaching activities in three villages bordering protected areas on the western boundary of Serengeti National Park. Our results showed that dietary recall of bushmeat consumption and arrest records indicated similar patterns of poaching across the three villages but self-reporting differed significantly. There appear to be significant advantages to coupling results from dietary recall of bushmeat consumption and arrest records to estimate the level of poaching activity. In situations where reliable data from anti-poaching units are unavailable, cost-effective data collection of bushmeat consumption will provide a viable alternative to assess levels of poaching involvement of villages that border protected areas.

Corresponding author
§Serengeti Research Institute, c/o Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, Arusha, Tanzania. E-mail
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