Case study of participatory action research for wildlife conservation

WashU affiliated authors: Krista M. Milich, Kayce Sorbello, Lev Kolinski (Dept. of Anthropology)

Abstract: Negative interactions between humans and wildlife create one of the greatest threats to biodiversity conservation. When wild animals damage the crops in agricultural fields, subsistence farmers suffer food insecurity and economic instability. Animals can be killed or injured during these interactions, and communities may develop negative feelings about conservation. To address conservation concerns, projects should look at both sides of these interactions. A Participatory Action Research approach allows researchers and community members to work collaboratively to investigate and take action in response to this issue. Our team developed a community project to determine residents’ perceptions of the benefits and costs of living around Kibale National Park, Uganda, and to implement changes to mitigate those costs. During our initial survey in 2015, we found that over 80% of our 114 respondents were subsistence farmers with no other source of income. All respondents felt that crop damage by wild animals was the biggest problem with living near the park, and they had negative feelings about the park and animals. Thus, we worked with project participants to establish the following land‐use changes throughout 2016 and 2017: (a) planting garlic as a cash crop, (b) planting tea as a buffer crop, (c) building beehive fences, and (d) maintaining a trench around the boundary of the park. Through monthly surveys, we assessed the success of these changes on reducing crop damage and improving conservation initiatives. Compliance with land‐use changes was significantly associated with a reduction in the events of crop damage, which has implications for economic stability and an individual’s attitude about conservation. This project provides guidelines for using Participatory Action Research methods to develop sustainable interventions to improve human‐wildlife interactions.

Citation: Milich KM, Sorbello K, Kolinski L, Busobozi R, Kugonza M. Case study of participatory action research for wildlife conservation. Conservation Science and Practice. 2020;e347.