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The role of incentive-based instruments and social equity in conservation conflict interventions

Sarobidy O. Rakotonarivo, Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling, UK; École Supérieure des Sciences Agronomiques, Université d'Antananarivo, Madagascar
Andrew Reid Bell, Department of Environmental Studies, New York University, USA
Katharine Abernethy, Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling, UK; Institute for Tropical Ecology Research, CENAREST, Libreville, Gabon
Jeroen Minderman, University of Stirling, UK
A Bradley Duthie, University of Stirling, UK
Steve Redpath, University of Aberdeen, UK
Aidan Keane, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, UK
Henry Travers, Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, UK
Stephanie Bourgeois, Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux, Libreville, Gabon
Lea-Larissa Moukagni, Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux, Libreville, Gabon
Jeremy J Cusack, University of Stirling, UK; Centro de Modelación y Monitoreo de Ecosistemas, Universidad Mayor, Chile
Isabel L Jones, University of Stirling, UK
Rocío A Pozo, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Escuela de Agronomía, Chile
Nils Bunnefeld, University of Stirling, UK


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Conflicts between biodiversity conservation and other human activities are multifaceted. Understanding farmer preferences for various conflict mitigation strategies is therefore critical. We developed a novel interactive game around farmer land management decisions across 18 villages in Gabon to examine responses to three elephant conflict mitigation options: use of elephant deterrent methods, flat-rate subsidy, and agglomeration payments rewarding coordinated action for setting land aside for elephants. We found that all three policies significantly reduced participants’ inclinations to engage in lethal control. Use of deterrents and agglomeration payments were also more likely to reduce decisions to kill elephants in situations where levels of social equity were higher. Only the two monetary incentives increased farmers’ predisposition to provide habitats for elephants, suggesting that incentive-based instruments were conducive to pro-conservation behavior; different subsidy levels did not affect responses. Likewise, neither participants’ socioeconomic characteristics nor their real-life experiences of crop damage by elephants affected game decisions. Killing behavior in the games was 64% lower in villages influenced by protected areas than in villages surrounded by logging concessions, highlighting the need to address conservation conflicts beyond protected areas. Our study shows the importance of addressing underlying social conflicts, specifically equity attitudes, prior to, or alongside addressing material losses.

Key words

conservation conflict; human behavior; human–elephant conflict; human–wildlife conflict; interactive game; monetary incentives; stakeholder engagement

Copyright © 2021 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087