Year : 2013 | Volume
| Issue : 3 | Page : 277-290
A Baseline Analysis of Transboundary Poaching Incentives in Chiquibul National Park, Belize
Katherine Groff1, Mark Axelrod2
1 Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; Current affiliation: New England Anti Vivisection Society, Boston, MA, USA
2 Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and James Madison College, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA
Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; Current affiliation: New England Anti Vivisection Society, Boston, MA
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|Date of Web Publication||6-Nov-2013|
| Abstract|| |
When local and external interests differ, community development and conservation goals may conflict. This interest divide is especially apparent in the management of resources across national borders. This study considers illegal hunting of wildlife in Belize's Chiquibul National Park (CNP), which may contribute to decreasing wildlife populations. Community residents in neighbouring Guatemala engage in poaching within CNP, but management strategies are limited to Belizean efforts. This research assesses Guatemalan residents' perceptions of the extent of poaching, understanding of wildlife in CNP, and views on the legality and motivations for poaching. We address these objectives by interviewing Guatemalan border community residents, along with authorities on both sides of the border. Our findings indicate that cross-border poaching by Guatemalan residents is declining, yet still prevalent, in these communities. However, this research demonstrates little support for the hypothesis that regulations or punishments limit poaching. Instead, the subsistence needs of hunters and their families was found to be a more important factor affecting residents' decision to poach. Park managers should design conservation interventions accordingly.
Keywords: Belize, Guatemala, poaching, transboundary wildlife conservation, Chiquibul National Park, Maya Mountains
|How to cite this article:|
Groff K, Axelrod M. A Baseline Analysis of Transboundary Poaching Incentives in Chiquibul National Park, Belize. Conservat Soc 2013;11:277-90
| Introduction|| |
Governments frequently struggle to promote biodiversity conservation in the face of economic development concerns. These difficulties are further exacerbated when multiple governments are responsible for the management process (Mitchell 1999), particularly when the involved agencies have dissonant goals (Pahre 2009).
Scholars, managers, and activists have long engaged in a debate about the goals of conservation policy. At the broader political level, this debate addresses the moral implications of prioritising poverty reduction or biodiversity conservation as the primary focus of such programmes (Adams et al. 2004; Kaimowitz and Sheil 2007; Roe and Walpole 2010). We do not take a stand here on this moral question, but rather acknowledge that wildlife conservation and poverty reduction can conflict in many cases (Adams et al. 2004). As a result, conservation retains primary importance for some managers, regardless of potential impacts on community development. We therefore turn to an empirical debate, assessing whether these managers would be most successful using enforcement or people-centred conservation strategies. Both approaches have biodiversity conservation as their primary goal, but they suggest different means to best achieve that outcome.
Strict enforcement proponents consider poverty reduction as a separate endeavour from conservation (Terborgh 2004). This school of thought suggests that excluding humans is the best way to prevent ecosystem damage. Authorities can only achieve such exclusion with severe punishments for those who encroach upon protected areas or use natural resources deemed to be off-limits.
In contrast, people-centred approaches suggest that conservation policies cannot succeed without focusing on poverty reduction in the process. These tactics, which have emerged more recently (Campbell et al. 2010; Roe and Walpole 2010), suggest instead that strict enforcement breeds mistrust and resistance to conservation rules (Ancrenaz et al. 2007; Dahlberg and Burlando 2009), thus leading to even greater ecosystem damage. Other studies find that people use more natural resources when they lack alternative employment or income opportunities (Angelsen and Kaimowitz 1999), particularly in more remote areas (Brashares et al. 2011). In areas where residents depend upon the resource for their livelihoods, they may be unable to survive in the short-term while reducing or avoiding damage to resource stocks. As a result, conservation efforts are doomed to failure unless they simultaneously address local development concerns as well (Lewis et al. 2011).
This shift towards people-centred strategies raised hope that conservation programmes could achieve 'win-win' outcomes, those helpful for both biodiversity protection and poverty alleviation. However, despite some examples of success (Chhatre and Agrawal 2009), studies suggest that there is no panacea for achieving win-win results (Agrawal and Redford 2006; Campbell et al. 2010; Lam 2011; Tumusiime and Vedeld 2012). Therefore, even people-centred programmes need to consider trade-offs between conservation and poverty reduction goals.
The trade-offs narrative continues to influence policymaking, with managers recognising that they must prioritise one goal over the other at times. The greatest opportunities for avoiding trade-offs emerge when local interests are considered (Chhatre and Agrawal 2009). However, when external and local interests are not perfectly aligned, one set of priorities must take precedence, often privileging external preferences (Kaimowitz and Sheil 2007).
Nowhere is this divide more obvious than in the management of resources across national borders. Campbell et al. (2010) note that managers are more likely to succeed when they "work at multiple jurisdictional levels" and international cooperation is, on its face, no more difficult than domestic interagency cooperation (Pahre 2009). Such coordination depends upon common goals (Pahre 2009) and local support for transboundary conservation (Zbicz 2003). In national border regions, however, governments' interests often differ. Cooperation in these situations is particularly difficult when addressing resource users who cross the border to access resources. While the users' home state may be interested in their constituents' economic needs (Kaimowitz and Sheil 2007), the other national government likely has more interest in protecting its natural resources. As a result of this dissonance, transboundary rules often resemble the strict enforcement approach outlined above. Our research examines one such conservation programme along the Belize-Guatemala border, attempting to understand how local community residents respond to enforcement and other inducements to limit hunting.
Along with habitat loss and fragmentation and climate disruption, hunting is one of the primary threats to global biodiversity. One-third of all mammals and birds are threatened with extinction due to hunting (Grey-Ross et al. 2010). Studies have shown that illegal hunting, also known as poaching, is common and threatens native wildlife (Bassett 2005; Reyes et al. 2009; Grey Ross et al. 2010).
Scholars have found a variety of motivations for poaching, including people: struggling to comply with hunting laws because they do not understand them (legal ambiguity), or they think the laws are unjust; continuing traditional hunting, despite new strains on wildlife populations; poaching for subsistence needs; preferring, rather than needing, meat; facing stress and boredom caused by unemployment; participating in recreational hunts or trophy poaching; and seeking commercial gain or acting upon monetary greed (Muth and Bowe 1998; Lee et al. 2005; Reyes et al. 2009; Warchol and Johnson 2009; Grey-Ross et al. 2010; Knapp et al. 2010; Liu et al. 2011; Mancini et al. 2011; Eliason 2012).
In addition, people who otherwise may not poach pursue the activity because the laws are not enforced (Rowcliffe et al. 2004; Lee et al. 2005; Reyes et al. 2009; Grey-Ross et al. 2010; Mancini et al. 2011). According to Rowcliffe et al. (2004: 2631),
[I]n many developing countries lack of resources means that effectiveness [of hunting laws] relies on voluntary compliance, leading to contradictory assumptions. On one hand, laws introduced without effective enforcement mechanisms carry an implicit assumption that voluntary compliance will occur. On the other hand, it is often openly assumed that, without enforcement, there will in fact be no compliance.
The identification of local attitudes and hunting motivations can inform successful conservation activities (Eliason 1999; Brown-Nunez and Jonker 2008). In addition, to protect biodiversity, park managers need to know the magnitude, prevalence, and frequency of hunting; the characteristics of poachers, many of whom live across the border in this case; and their incentives (Muth and Bowe 1998; Gavin et al. 2009). The lack of funding and potential resulting lack of infrastructure for wildlife-related activities can make programme assessment difficult in these types of areas. As a result, this is the first research to provide baseline information on these factors, and the first to describe poaching activities according to Chiquibul National Park (CNP) rangers, Guatemalan government officials, and Guatemalan border community residents. These multiple perspectives provide a well-rounded view of poaching in CNP and give valuable input on how to address the problem. This research assesses Guatemalan community residents' perceptions of the extent of poaching, understanding of wildlife in CNP, views on the legality of poaching, and motivations for poaching.
After introducing the study location and our hypotheses, we describe our multi-method research design. We then present and discuss our results, demonstrating that subsistence needs outweigh concerns about punishment for residents of the border region. As a result, many continue to hunt, despite acknowledging the consequences if they are caught. Finally, we conclude with a discussion of future research needs and policy suggestions.
Study area background
The Belize-Guatemala border provides a particularly difficult test for transboundary resource management due to a history of conflict in the area. Guatemala and Britain, the colonial power ruling Belize at the time, established the border between Guatemala and Belize in 1859. The specific border location, however, has long been disputed, and Guatemala continues to claim Belizean territory (United States Department of State 1961; Munks 2012). Therefore, the 45 km border between Guatemala and CNP is not well-defined and has been a source of tension between the countries (Bridgewater et al. 2006).
Newspapers, local organisations, and governments report recent acts of aggression and killings of Guatemalans by the Belize Defense Force in and around the Chiquibul area studied here, including one of our study communities, Las Flores (BBC 2000, 2004a, b; Cana News 2012) for years. The dispute continues to this day (Cana News 2012; Munks 2012).
Conservation groups have paid attention to the territorial dispute because of the area's ecological significance. The region includes 17 different ecosystems, largely variants of lowland and submontane tropical evergreen broadleaf forests with differing levels of humidity and substrate types. This diversity provides habitat for a wide variety of fauna, including many rare species such as jaguar, ocelot, margay, and scarlet macaw. In addition, the area, which is estimated to receive 2,000 mm of rainfall per year, forms part of the Belize River watershed, and riparian areas support the Baird's tapir (Salas and Meerman 2008).
Created in 1991 (Bridgewater et al. 2006) and located along the national border, CNP is the largest protected area in Belize at nearly 1,070 sq. km. It comprises 29% of protected land in the country and nearly 5% of Belize's total land area. CNP is considered an IUCN (World Conservation Union) Category II Protected Area (Meerman 2005; Salas and Meerman 2008). CNP is thought to contain "8% of the world's known plant species, and 10% of its vertebrates" (Salas and Meerman 2008: 15), with 662 plant species having been identified in the Chiquibul forest. While less complete, the Biodiversity and Environmental Resource Data System of Belize (BERDS) lists nearly 7,000 faunal species (Salas and Meerman 2008). The Belize Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment prohibits natural resources extraction and hunting in CNP. In 2007, Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD), a Belizean non-profit organisation, agreed to co-manage patrols and conservation programmes in CNP with the Belize Forest Department (Salas and Meerman 2008).
CNP is contiguous with other protected areas in Belize and Guatemala, including the Chiquibul Forest Reserve and the Caracol Archaeological Reserve in Belize. These two areas and CNP together are known as the Chiquibul Forest. CNP also abuts the Guatemalan protected area Reserva de la Biósfera Montaûas Mayas/Chiquibul. Therefore, the Comisién Nacional de Áreas Protegidas (National Commission of Protected Areas, CONAP), a Guatemalan government agency, is an important stakeholder in this key biodiversity region. CNP forms a critical piece of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor linking Guatemala and Mexico, in combination with other protected areas known as the Chiquibul/Maya Mountains Key Biodiversity Area, or La Selva Maya (Salas and Meerman 2008).
Guatemala and Belize created these contiguous natural protected areas in part due to their ongoing border dispute. Under the influence of international organisations, they aimed to mitigate ongoing tensions and increase cooperative management of protected areas and archaeological sites by creating the Chiquibul/Maya Mountains Biodiversity Area, as well as a peace park initiative in the Chiquibul mountains along the border (Arias and Nations 1992: 51-52; Grandia 2007, 2012; Friends for Conservation and Development 2011). Despite, or perhaps because of, such efforts, conflict has extended to local resource competition.
On the Belizean side, the park is surrounded by other protected areas. Thus, access to CNP from Belize is extremely limited and no Belizean communities border the park. Conversely, on the Guatemalan side of CNP, there are approximately 65 border communities within a 45 km stretch along the border, and there is a "complex system of trails into the CNP created by Guatemalans located along the border" (Salas and Meerman 2008: 15). Land scarcity has led to an expansion of communities within the Chiquibul-Montaûas Mayas biosphere reserve in Guatemala (Grandia 2012), followed by growth across the border into protected areas in Belize. The lack of human settlement on the Belizean side of the border means that resource extraction is primarily driven by Guatemalan communities. Guatemalans regularly cross the border to clear land for agriculture, extract timber, poach wildlife (Nations 2006), and cut xate, the leaf of certain Chamaedorea palms used in the global floral industry (Salas and Meerman 2008). The stakeholder governments, therefore, have different interests in managing the Chiquibul forest.
Their approaches differ, for example, in response to xate collection, a major reason for border crossings. Residents legally harvest xate in Guatemala, where it is an important non-timber forest product, leading to over-harvesting in some areas. Guatemalan conservation projects include sustainable xate cooperatives (Grandia 2012: xv). However, while xate harvesting is widespread in some locations in Belize, this activity is illegal (Bridgewater et al. 2006).
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), approximately 75% of Chamaedorea are considered threatened. Because the global xate market is a multi-million dollar enterprise for Guatemalan businesses, xate leaves are heavily exploited (Bridgewater et al. 2006). Salas and Meerman (2008: 35) state that the Guatemalan border communities serve "as staging grounds for large-scale xaté harvesting within the Chiquibul Forest." Scholars and activists debate appropriate management of xate extraction; however, this debate is outside of the scope of our study, which focuses on wildlife poaching as a potential side effect. 1 According to Salas and Meerman (2008: 42):
With local yields in decline, individual xaté collectors (xateros) in Guatemala have been illegally crossing into Belize… There is now a constant observed xatero presence in the Chiquibul Forest area, suggesting that the problem is acute, and a network of small foot trails and recently established larger horse tracks act as the primary routes feeding across the border into Guatemala… The major current impact on the Chiquibul Forest has been identified as the illegal, widespread and unsustainable harvesting of C. ernesti-augusti (xaté), with associated hunting pressure, which has reportedly drastically reduced populations of many game species…
Anecdotal research shows increased hunting within Chiquibul associated with xatero activity, and observers have noted carcasses of protected animals in xatero camps (Bridgewater et al. 2006). Poaching pressure in CNP is thought to be heaviest near the Belize-Guatemala border (Salas and Meerman 2008), further suggesting Guatemalan participation. Authorities believe that wild animals are poached mainly for food by villagers who have already entered the park to gather xate, but animals may also be poached for commercial sale in Guatemala (Perez et al. 2009). Salas and Meerman (2008: 31) state:
[T]here is strong anecdotal evidence that the larger vertebrate fauna has suffered heavily as a result of heavy hunting pressure by Guatemalan xateros, with "game" species such as Currasow, Crested Guan, Ocellated Turkey, White-lipped Peccary, Collared Peccary, Paca, Red Brocket Deer and White-tailed Deer bearing the brunt of the pressure but there is further anecdotal evidence indicating that other non-traditional game species such as Tapir are being targeted as well.
They note that border communities rely on wildlife for supplemental nutrition, leading to illegal hunting as access to the area from Guatemala increases due to increased Guatemalan land clearance. Furthermore, community members are not deterred from poaching due to limited monitoring and enforcement of regulations caused by staff and funding shortfalls. Again, we see that Belize and Guatemala have different interests on their respective sides of the national border, leading to a complex wildlife management situation. CNP therefore provides a poignant study location because of the potential for confusion and conflicting managerial interests created by the national border. We now turn to potential explanations for poaching behaviour in CNP.
Deterrence theory presumes that people are self-interested, rational beings. As a result, they comply with legal requirements only if costs of punishment are expected to exceed benefits of the illegal activity. Expected punishment is based on the certainty, severity, and celerity (swiftness) of penalties (Beccaria 1764(1963); Cohen 2000). We develop and test a deterrence model of poaching behaviour, based on three hypothesised factors.
First, in order to be deterred from illegal activity, one must be aware that the action is illegal. Hunting is indeed prohibited in CNP. However, residents can only comply with laws that they are aware of and understand. Research elsewhere has promoted raising public awareness of wildlife laws for conservation purposes, and these studies demonstrate that people claim to poach because they are unaware of the law or uneducated about the scope of regulations (Eliason 2003; Lee et al. 2005; Xiang et al. 2009).
In this case, the different legal systems in place on either side of the border may exacerbate the lack of knowledge. Legal pluralism is "a situation in which two or more legal systems coexist in the same social field" (Merry 1988: 870) often leading to "a range of complex legal problems" (Merry 1988: 871) including lack of mutual awareness regarding applicable laws. Such divergent perspectives may also result in intergroup conflict or resistance to legal authority. As Bavinck (2005: 817) notes, this approach "highlights substantial differences between conflicting parties and the fact that they may disagree about basics, such as what belongs to whom, and why, and who decides. Frictions may lead to accommodation or varying degrees of social unrest," particularly with regard to competition over natural resources. Awareness and acceptance of CNP regulations, therefore, cannot be taken for granted among communities in Guatemala, particularly with the governments' divergent interests.
To determine if Guatemalan border communities lack awareness regarding Belizean poaching laws, this study asked residents about their knowledge of a hunting prohibition. In sum, we hypothesise that residents are more likely to poach when they are unaware of hunting laws.
Second, effective deterrence requires that regulated individuals actually anticipate enforcement of those laws with some likelihood. The perception of punishment risk is an adequate condition to avoid the act. On the other hand, if regulations are not strict enough or are not enforced, people may commit the illegal act due to lack of perceived risk (Erickson et al. 1977).
Recent studies highlight the importance of enforcement to deter poaching worldwide. Keane et al. (2008) show that decreased enforcement leads to an increase in poaching incidents. One study in Mexico suggests that poaching levels vary according to hunters' perceptions of the consequences of poaching (Reyes et al. 2009). Another study in Mexico shows that poaching was common despite an extensive legal framework, in part because limited enforcement staff were involved (Reyes et al. 2009). A study from Tanzania states that "the decline in poaching can be attributed primarily to the increase in anti-poaching effort." However, the authors qualify that "sufficient resources for a professional national park service" are required (Hilborn et al. 2006: 1266). Finally, a study in Indonesia states that over-exploitation of wildlife is rampant and "human resources and funding are inadequate to monitor the wildlife trade and enforce existing protection laws" (Lee et al. 2005: 477). These studies, along with many others (e.g., Missios 2004; Byers and Noonburg 2007; Grey-Ross et al. 2010; Mancini et al. 2011; Eliason 2012), indicate that hunting ban enforcement predicts the likelihood of poaching. Therefore, we asked residents about their knowledge of punishments for hunting in CNP. We hypothesise that residents are more likely to poach when they believe that the authorities do not punish people for hunting in CNP.
Finally, even if people anticipate punishment, they may believe that the benefits of illegal behaviour outweigh the expected costs of getting caught. That is, an offender may risk breaking a law after considering his or her personal situation as well as situational factors. Personal situations may include concerns such as a need for food or money, and situational factors may include how many park rangers are protecting an area and the difficulty of traveling to the area. In this rational choice theory, while one must consider the risk of punishment (Guerette et al. 2005), poachers' positive motivations may balance out such anticipated costs.
For instance, Reyes et al. (2009) find that subsistence needs played a role in hunting decisions. Studies in other locations have also demonstrated subsistence as a motivation to poach, especially when other livelihood options lose viability (Bassett 2005; Grey-Ross et al. 2010; Brashares et al. 2011). Those hunting for subsistence purposes may value food acquisition enough that they are willing to face possible punishment for such behaviour.
Guatemalan hunters may weigh the benefits of entering Belize, such as acquiring xate leaves to sell and food for subsistence, against the risk of being caught. In order to test this concept, we asked residents why community members engage in hunting. We hypothesise that subsistence needs affect whether Guatemalan community residents choose to poach in CNP. Specifically, we anticipate that residents are more likely to poach when they hunt to fulfil subsistence needs, regardless of their awareness of anti-poaching laws and enforcement. If this hypothesis is accurate, then subsistence hunting should continue even when people are aware of likely punishments.
| Materials and Methods|| |
In order to gain the perspectives of both community members and local authorities in Belize and Guatemala, we interviewed community residents, town leaders, and CNP rangers during May and June 2010.
Community resident interviews in Guatemala border towns
The first author interviewed 10 residents from each of five Guatemalan communities-Centro Maya, Las Flores de Chiquibul (Las Flores), Sacul Arriba, El Naranjon, and Monte Los Olivos (Michigan State University Institutional Review Board Number 10-345). We chose these communities based on proximity to the national border with Belize, road accessibility, and known involvement in Chiquibul activities (as identified by FCD and Guatemalan officials). In addition, we considered the communities' relative length of establishment. 2 Other, newer communities have sprung up along the border, but they are not yet sufficiently established to provide long-term background on community activity. We identified geographic boundaries by inquiring with the acknowledged leader of each community.
The communities are located in Petén, Guatemala, adjacent to Belize [Figure 1]. Except for Las Flores, the communities are located in the municipality of Dolores. Approximately 9,946 urban residents and 29,837 rural residents (2005 projection) live in this 3,050 sq. km municipality. Dolores consists of approximately 71 communities (Universidad de Carlos de Guatemala 2008). Las Flores is located in the municipality of Melchor de Mencos, which has about 11,266 urban residents and 9,007 rural residents in a total area of 2,098 sq. km (2005 projection). In addition to the municipality's capital, 41 communities constitute the municipality of Melchor de Mencos (as of 2005) (Universidad de Carlos de Guatemala 2007). Most rural residents engage in agricultural activities intended for subsistence in both municipalities (Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala 2007, 2008).
|Figure 1: Map of communities included in the study in Petén, Guatemala. To the left side of the drawn line is Petén, Guatemala, and to the right side is Belize. The letters and numbers represent the following: A: Melchor de Mencos, B: Poptún. 1: Las Flores; 2: Centro Maya; 3: Sacul Arriba; 4: El Naranjon; 5: Monte Los Olivos|
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The communities range in size from approximately 47 families in Centro Maya to 144 families in Las Flores. Sacul Arriba has 86, El Naranjon 90, and Monte Los Olivos has 120. The average family size of interview subjects ranges from 6.5 in Sacul Arriba to about 8.5 in Las Flores.
Las Flores is the most recently settled community, and the average interview subject has lived in Las Flores for 14.3 years. Sacul Arriba is the longest settled community, with the average interview subject in residence for 30 years. At 2.5 years, Sacul Arriba has the highest median education, followed by El Naranjon (2 years), Las Flores (1 year), and Centro Maya and Monte Los Olivos (both with 0.5 years). Subsistence farming is the primary livelihood activity in all communities.
All interview respondents were at least 18 years old to ensure they were able to respond without parental pressure. The first author selected residents at random by walking up to homes throughout each community and requesting permission to discuss forest use. Fifty out of 51 requests were granted. For representativeness, we made sure not to concentrate all interviews within the same geographic area of the community. Because it is an agricultural area, the time of day could have influenced who was available to be interviewed at home. We believe this concern was minimal because we found residents of a variety of ages at home during these weekday afternoon visits. In addition, the first author interviewed many agriculture workers, ensuring that this segment of the population was not missing. We ensured gender representativeness by interviewing at least four women in each community.
The first author conducted all interviews in Spanish or Q'eqchi', the native language of many residents in these communities. An interpreter who spoke both Spanish and Q'eqchi' aided in these interviews. In Las Flores, Centro Maya, Monte Los Olivos, and Sacul Arrriba, all respondents spoke Spanish, though some also spoke Q'eqchi'. In El Naranjon, four residents spoke only Q'eqchi'. Some of these Spanish speakers may be ethnically Q'eqchi' but our interview did not cover this characteristic. The respondents' ethnic differences-and their different historical experience with outsiders-could limit our ability to generalise results within and across communities. Indeed, people are known to speak differently about their relationship with nature to non-Q'eqchi' speakers (Grandia 2012: xiv). However, both Spanish and Q'eqchi' speakers demonstrated similar variation in terms of livelihoods, length of community residence, and observation of hunting or xate collection. As a result, we believe language and ethnicity do not bias our findings.
Interview questions were open- or close-ended. Open-ended questions clarify respondents' perspectives without constraining the scope of their response, while close-ended questions provide an opportunity for easy comparison across individuals (Grey-Ross et al. 2010; Liu et al. 2011). Open-ended questions addressed residents' knowledge of wildlife in CNP, what animals were hunted in CNP, the importance of CNP to residents, hunting punishments, and the relationship of residents with authority figures. Close-ended questions addressed community members' poaching activities and frequency, the prohibition of hunting, and socio-demographic characteristics.
The subject matter of the questions was sensitive because it addressed illegal activities. As a result, respondents who were aware of the hunting prohibition could have been defensive in their answers. This concern could have decreased the reliability of respondents' answers. Therefore, we did not ask interview subjects about their own personal behaviour. Instead, we asked whether others in the community enter the forest to hunt. This anonymity allowed them to discuss behaviour without implicating themselves. This framing of the interview questions, which indirectly asked about poaching activities in CNP, limits our data by preventing direct attribution of socio-demographic information to poachers or non-poachers. However, other studies have successfully employed a similar indirect form of questioning (Loibook et al. 2002; Weladji and Tchamba 2003; Kaltenborn et al. 2005).
The interviewer further assured residents of anonymity by explaining in advance that she was a student and not associated with the governments of Belize or Guatemala. Furthermore, we did not collect respondents' names so that responses could not be used for self-incrimination.
Nonetheless, if someone knew that poaching was illegal, he or she may have been more likely to respond that community residents do not poach, even if the respondent was aware of such activity, therefore biasing the results. We addressed this second limitation by asking if community residents hunted before asking if hunting was prohibited. We separated these questions by inserting six other questions in between, and we validated responses by asking direct and indirect questions related to hunting and prohibition of hunting. For example, we asked residents about the importance of the forest, whether community residents entered the forest, why they entered the forest, whether community residents hunted, whether hunting was prohibited, who enforced regulations regarding hunting, and what happened if someone was encountered hunting.
This study also increased the reliability of the answers by conducting the interviews in the homes or workplaces of residents, which were comfortable settings allowing a more open atmosphere (Bell et al. 2007). In addition, the illegal activity in question could be considered "an everyday reality, embedded in local cultural values, rather than ethically wrong or a source of shame," making residents less reluctant to talk about it with a researcher (Bell et al. 2007: 405).
Interviews with local authorities
In order to corroborate residents' statements, we interviewed authority figures on both sides of the border. These additional interviews provided a different perspective and further evidence of community activities. Furthermore, they allowed us to triangulate-a mixed-methods approach that addresses objectives using at least two methods. It adds trustworthiness and depth to a study by comparing findings from different methodological approaches (Mcvilly et al. 2008).
We interviewed four rangers, who patrolled CNP and were employed by FCD during May-June 2010, as well as one Institute of Archaeology ranger and the mayors of Poptún and Melchor de Mencos. The Institute of Archaeology is a Belizean government agency dedicated to the preservation of cultural and archaeological sites (Institute of Archaeology Undated). This particular ranger patrolled Caracol, the largest Mayan archaeological site in Belize, which is encircled by CNP. Poptún and Melchor de Mencos are the largest Guatemalan cities near the border communities where the interviews were conducted. The mayors of each city are important for this study because they were aware of border activities, and they had worked with FCD to address incursions into CNP.
The first author conducted these interviews informally in a semi-structured fashion in the interviewees' workplaces. She identified the subjects opportunistically, choosing FCD rangers based on work schedules that were compatible with the researcher's visit. The interviews consisted of both close- and open-ended questions. Open-ended questions addressed authority figures' relationships with officials on the opposite side of the border and with Guatemalan community residents, wildlife present in CNP, and the enforcement and success of poaching regulations. Close-ended questions addressed the presence and frequency of poaching. We posed questions in English in Belize and in Spanish in Guatemala.
Data analysis strategy
We analysed resident responses statistically, and used the smaller number of authority figure responses to support quantitative analysis. The statistical analyses rely on nonparametric logistic regressions to analyse factors affecting the decision of whether or not to poach.
We derived the dependent variable from responses to the question: "Do people from your community hunt?" As discussed earlier, these responses proxy for residents' poaching decisions. The resulting dichotomous variable provides a strong comparison among border community residents. Seventy-six per cent of the respondents claimed that community members hunt in CNP, providing extensive variation to be explained.
The key explanatory variables in these models relate to regulatory certainty, punishments, and subsistence needs. If poaching is more likely when laws and enforcement are unknown, then we would expect to see a correlation between those reporting hunting and those who were unaware of the hunting ban and/or its enforcement. In order to measure awareness of the ban and enforcement, we rely on responses to the questions: "Is hunting prohibited?", "Who prohibits hunting?", and "What happens if someone is encountered hunting?" Responses to these questions allow us to see whether poaching was more likely among those who were unaware of the negative consequences.
Our other hypothesis suggests that hunting is more likely, regardless of regulatory knowledge, when it is necessary for subsistence. We measured subsistence attitudes through responses to the question: "Why do people hunt?" Seventy-six per cent of the respondents noted household food consumption as the goal of hunting. These responses allow us to see the role of subsistence in hunting decisions, especially when controlling for regulatory knowledge.
In the regulation and enforcement regressions, we control for gender, number of years the respondent lived in the community, age, and education. These controls are important because certain groups may observe hunting more than others. For instance, men tend to talk more about poaching activities. People who have lived in the communities and surrounding area longer have had greater opportunities to observe poaching than those who have lived in the area for less time, and, thus, the former may know more about local poaching. Finally, previous research demonstrates that education may positively influence support for environmental policies (McFarlane 2005). In addition to these socio-economic characteristics, we also control for residence in the Las Flores community, which is located the furthest from a major town and on a separate roadway from the other communities. This control variable allows us to ensure that outcomes are not driven by geographical differences.
We employ the same controls in the subsistence regression, with the exception of omitting the gender control variable. This omission is necessary because a nearly perfect covariate pattern appears between subsistence and gender [Table 1]. 3
We did not control separately for income because of its high correlation with the other control variables. Income is highly correlated with education (positive) and number of years the respondent lived in the community (negative). However, respondents had more difficulty quantifying their income, leading to questions about this variable's reliability. For instance, many respondents stated that they sold their crops a couple of times each year, but that the income varied and depended on crop yield (and it was sometimes zero). Therefore, we retained the more reliable education and residence time variables. The number of children is also omitted from the regressions because this measure is, unsurprisingly, highly correlated with age. These correlations and omissions limit our interpretation of control variable coefficients, but do not affect our primary hypothesis testing.
[Table 2] lists the interview questions used for analysis and the abbreviated variable names, as well as summary statistics.
We tested our hypotheses with three sets of analyses. All analyses use multivariate logistic regression because of the dichotomous dependent variable. The first model examines the correlation between regulatory awareness and residents' decisions to hunt, without controlling for subsistence needs. The second model explores the enforcement of a hunting ban in place of the regulatory awareness measure. Due to high correlation, regulatory awareness and enforcement cannot be analysed in the same model. The third model is the same as the first, but explores shifts that happen when subsistence concerns are introduced. We then used CLARIFY software (Tomz et al. 2001) to simulate community members' likely responses to the question of community hunting when key explanatory variables change.
| Results|| |
Extent of poaching
Thirty-eight of 50 residents responded that people in their communities hunted in the surrounding forests. Thirty-four of 50 community residents stated that hunting frequency had decreased in recent years because wildlife populations had declined, animals had moved further into the forest due to habitat destruction, hunting was prohibited, there was an increased risk of being caught in Belize, or people were busy with agricultural work. Only three respondents (from three different communities) said that hunting frequency had increased in recent years. Nine residents thought that hunting frequency had not changed over time. Four residents did not know whether hunting levels increased or decreased, or they declined to answer.
A few residents stated that they knew certain species were declining in number but continued to be hunted. However, generally the respondents who identified a species in decline were not the same people who stated that the species was hunted. For example, 32 people stated that paca (tepezcuintle) were hunted and 10 people said that they were declining in the forest. Only four residents stated that they were disappearing but continued to be hunted by community residents. Likewise, 19 residents said white-tailed deer were hunted, 11 residents stated that they were declining, and four stated both. Finally, 13 residents stated that peccary were hunted, five stated that they were declining, and two stated both.
All four CNP rangers and the Guatemalan mayors corroborated these results, noting that people in Guatemalan border communities entered CNP and poached wildlife in Belize. They claimed that crossing the border into CNP is a common practice that is harming the forest. All Belize rangers believed that poaching rates were relatively high in CNP. They considered poaching a grave danger to wildlife in the area. However, most rangers agreed with community residents that poaching had decreased over the years. The following section analyses which factors led to hunting in these communities.
Regulatory awareness and enforcement
Thirty-two of 50 residents were aware that hunting was prohibited in CNP. An additional three, all residents of Las Flores, said that selling the meat of hunted animals was prohibited though hunting itself was not. Twenty-four of the 32 respondents who stated that hunting was prohibited also responded that the prohibition was enforced. 4 A multivariate logistic regression tested the effect of respondents' knowledge of a hunting ban on whether they thought community residents hunted. The regression explains nearly 21% of the variation (i.e., Pseudo R 2 =0.208) in whether or not residents hunted [Table 3], Model 1).
Model 1 shows that, while controlling for other factors, regulatory awareness has a negative and significant impact on community hunting. In addition, men were significantly more likely than women to say that community residents hunted. Model 1 suggests that knowledge of a legal prohibition is a statistically significant factor limiting hunting. CLARIFY simulation results derived from Model 1 demonstrate that, while holding all other variables at their mean, regulatory awareness decreases likelihood of hunting from 93% to 71%, a substantial decline of 22%.
When we include punishment in the model instead of regulatory awareness (Model 2), only gender is significant. Respondents identified the following enforcement measures: arrest, beatings, and seizure of animals and guns. However, these measures do not appear to deter hunting. Model 2 explains less than 14% of the variation in whether residents hunted.
Despite the negative relationship between regulatory awareness and hunting behaviour, many respondents stated that residents hunt even though hunting is prohibited, thus requiring additional explanation. Indeed, as noted above, our simulation suggested that regulatory awareness only reduced hunting likelihood by 22%.
Therefore, we introduce our third hypothesised factor, subsistence needs, in Model 3 to determine whether subsistence concerns are more influential than regulatory awareness. The covariate pattern of subsistence and gender perfectly predicts whether or not people believe their neighbours hunted. That is, all non-subsistence females say people do not hunt, and all subsistence males say people do hunt [Table 1]. As a result of this complex collinearity, we cannot include both gender and subsistence variables simultaneously. Model 3 is otherwise the same as Model 1.
In Model 3, we see highly significant results for the subsistence variable. This outcome, and the concurrent decline in the legal variable's significance, suggests that subsistence needs are a much more powerful predictor of hunting behaviour. Not only does the regulatory awareness variable decline in significance, but Model 3 also explains a much higher proportion of the variation in hunting (~73%) than Model 1 (~21%), which addresses only legal awareness and control variables.
When CLARIFY simulated the effects of subsistence based on Model 3, with all other variables held at their mean, subsistence needs shifted residents' likelihood of hunting from 12% to 96%, an 84% increase. When regulatory awareness and subsistence were manipulated simultaneously, it resulted in the substantive effects outlined in [Table 4]. The percentage of respondents acknowledging local hunting increased dramatically when respondents stated that residents hunted for subsistence purposes, regardless of whether or not they believed that hunting was prohibited (from 8.4% to 94.9%) or permitted (from 28.5% to 95.7%).
|Table 4: CLARIFY simulation results showing the effects of subsistence based on Model 3, when the variables 'regulatory awareness' and 'subsistence' are manipulated simultaneously|
Click here to view
[Table 4] further supports the hypothesis that subsistence needs have major substantive effects on the decision to hunt. Although the underlying legality indicator is not statistically significant in Model 3 and subsistence needs seem to drive hunting no matter what the legal situation, [Table 4] nonetheless demonstrates that when people do not see hunting as a subsistence activity, the prohibition lowers their likelihood of hunting by approximately 20%, from 28.5% to 8.4%. Again, although the result lacks statistical significance, it suggests a meaningful role for increased knowledge of hunting prohibitions, as seen in Model 1.
| Discussion|| |
This research provides a baseline for understanding poaching in CNP and border communities. In in-depth interviews, a small sample size is sufficient for baseline research when the same topics and responses emerge from interviews (Boyce and Neale 2006). As demonstrated, consistent patterns arise across our interviews.
We received consistent responses and many respondents provided more information than the questions required, suggesting that respondents answered our questions honestly. Even more tellingly, although respondents had an incentive to lie about illegal hunting behaviour, many nonetheless acknowledged these activities. In addition, only one household declined to participate, indicating a high level of comfort with the issue.
This research suggests that poaching is declining, yet still common, in the communities visited. The awareness of hunted wildlife species as opposed to non-hunted species may hint at the prevalence of hunting or the hunting culture in the communities. Fourteen of 21 local animals listed by residents were mentioned as hunting targets. In addition, some of the hunted species are known to face threats, including most peccary and white-tailed deer populations in Central America (Gallina and Lopez Arevalo 2008; Reyna-Hurtado et al. 2008).
While rangers agreed with Guatemalan community residents that poaching had decreased, they thought that poaching frequency remained high. CNP rangers may be more aware of activities in the entire park, which may explain why they reported higher poaching frequency than community residents. We examined three possible causes of poaching.
First, this study finds initial support for the hypothesis that regulatory awareness affects whether Guatemalan community residents choose to poach in CNP. Community residents who were knowledgeable about the hunting ban were less likely to respond that community residents hunted. Particularly in this border region, where residents face a variety of inconsistent legal systems, many residents may lack information about laws in both countries (here, approximately 36% of Guatemalans interviewed were unaware of the prohibition in Belize). One resident of El Naranjon was concerned that there was no law, stating: "The woods are important for the future and there needs to be a law." Further research would do well to explore whether the existence of multiple legal systems causes such confusion.
Second, as the enforcement hypothesis suggests, the 2007 introduction of ranger patrols could have caused the aforementioned decrease in hunting. For example, one Monte Los Olivos resident stated that hunting is decreasing "because of the law. When you go to Belize, which is close [by] and where the animals are, you will be captured." Other studies demonstrate the importance of enforcement by showing that poaching incidents increased when enforcement declined (Keane et al. 2008). However, our statistical results do not support such a relationship in this region. This result may emerge because community residents do not distinguish punishment for hunting from punishment for related activities, such as trespassing in Belize or harvesting xate. Alternatively, minimal expectations of actual punishment may drive the lack of correlation. As one ranger noted: "Sometimes people who are captured are released with no punishment-they're just let go. Some individuals are captured over and over." Either way, our results suggest that mere threats of punishment did not drive the poaching decline.
Third, despite the evidence regarding legal awareness, among those who knew hunting was prohibited, approximately 69% still believed that hunting occurred. According to the rational choice theory, people who continue to poach weigh costs and benefits of poaching and determine whether their gains from poaching outweigh the risk of punishment. This research identifies subsistence as that necessary motivation for poaching.
Subsistence affects poaching more than regulatory awareness. When subsistence is included in Model 3 along with regulatory awareness, regulatory awareness loses significance whereas subsistence is highly significant. The logistic regression including the subsistence variable explains a large amount of the variation in residents' responses about community hunting. Furthermore, the variable has a large substantive effect, expanding the likelihood of illegal hunting by 86%, even among those who are aware of legal prohibitions.
Not only does Model 3 indicate that subsistence motivates poaching, but this result is further supported because we did not ask people directly if they hunted for subsistence. Instead, we asked the open-ended question: "Why do people in the community hunt?" Rather than providing one-word answers, many residents expanded on this question. For example, an El Naranjon resident stated: "People go and look for little animals to eat. If people had better work, they wouldn't need to do this." A resident of Sacul Arriba said: "We use animals only to eat, not to sell, because we don't have money to buy. Every now and then we go to hunt. We need people to help us here." Similar statements include: "There is no other way to live. We hunt for subsistence" and "We hunt to feed our families." This result is similar to Brashares et al.'s (2011) finding that hunting declined sharply when households were occupied with agricultural activity in rural Africa. This outcome further supports the notion that conservation policy requires economic development strategies, even when managers focus primarily on biodiversity outcomes.
Subsistence hunting appears to continue even when people are aware of a hunting prohibition and punishments. However, community residents stated that poaching rates had declined recently, in part because decreasing wildlife populations lowered the benefits of hunting. One community resident stated that no wildlife remained in the immediate area. Instead, residents had to walk for a day to locate animals.
Some combination of these three factors is likely responsible for community members' decisions. As one El Naranjon resident stated: "People hunt for necessity. Because it is for necessity, the law prohibiting hunting is not enforced. Also, people do not understand the law." Guatemalan poachers appear to be weighing benefits of entering Belize against the risk of punishment. This cost-benefit analysis and the change in poaching rates alongside the change in situational factors support the rational choice theory of crime, in particular that crime is not random but rather serves a specific purpose. In the Guatemalan border communities, as in other locations worldwide, reducing poverty and providing alternative incomes may change the personal situation of poachers, thereby reducing their motivation to poach (Bassett 2005; Roe and Walpole 2010).
While the provision of alternative livelihoods might reduce the motivation to poach or harvest xate, and some residents indicated that they would welcome an alternative activity to poaching for food, alternative livelihoods may not completely stop poaching. As one resident of Monte Los Olivos explained: "Hunting is part of the culture. It would be difficult to accept an alternative because people are accustomed to hunting." Other residents noted: "Sometimes many people hunt because they like the meat" and "People like the taste of the animals so it's difficult to say [whether people would stop hunting if there were alternative livelihoods]." Lastly, one El Naranjon resident said that "people are adapted to hunting and like to eat the meat." Nonetheless, such cultural and culinary motivations received much less support than subsistence needs.
Illegal activity, in this case poaching, is also connected with other illegal activities (e.g., xate harvesting), providing a further challenge for conservation projects in areas such as CNP. It can be difficult to determine the extent to which changes in one activity (e.g., xate harvesting) affect the occurrence of another (e.g., poaching). For example, poaching may occur where local communities also engage in other illegal activities, such as extraction of trees and shrubs, water collection, harvesting of medicinal and other plants, and expansion of agricultural land and livestock grazing (Mackenzie et al. 2012). Thus, as some community residents stated, poaching may not be the primary illegal activity, but it may be subsidising other activities both on a local level, such as the activities noted above, or on a larger level. Significantly, poaching has been connected to, or even implicated as subsidising, armed conflict (Bloomfield 2008; Grossmann 2009), the drug trade (Tailby and Gant 2002; Bahnsen 2007), and imperial expansion (MacKenzie 1987, 1988; Steinhart 1989).
Indeed, authorities and community residents indicated that hunting often was a by-product of xate harvesting. Residents of Las Flores and El Naranjon said that people would not go to Belize if there were another way to feed themselves or a way to make money other than by cutting xate. One Monte Los Olivos resident said that community residents go to CNP when someone wants to buy xate, and if no one wants to buy xate, they don't go. On these trips into CNP, hunting is necessary for short-term food provision. As one resident of El Naranjon stated: "When they go to look for xaté, there's nothing else to eat." A resident of Monte Los Olivos stated that people "hunt animals when going to cut xaté. A service would have to replace cutting xaté, not hunting animals." In other locations, managers have successfully implemented programmes that identify "people responsible for severe natural resource depletion and [train] them to generate alternative income sources" that are not otherwise related to the resource to be conserved (Lewis et al. 2011: 13957). Such alternatives include ecotourism and park outreach (e.g., service provision and employment for local villages) that would replace the benefits of illegal hunting (Adams et al. 2004). Thus, alternative activities may need to replace both xate harvesting and other poaching incentives.
The border location of CNP may have led Belizean conservation authorities to ignore Guatemalan livelihoods in the past. However, our findings suggest that successful biodiversity conservation in the area will depend upon future recognition of development concerns across the border. Even though Guatemalan residents are not political constituents of Belizean authorities, officials may need to consider their well-being in order to achieve the conservation goals that benefit Belize's tourism-dependent economy. Our research demonstrates that people-centred conservation approaches may be more effective, even when the resource users are not constituents of the authorities attempting to protect biodiversity.
| Conclusions|| |
This research can help park managers better understand poachers' perspectives and motivations, particularly subsistence concerns. Any robust policy must consider livelihoods. Many common methods to increase compliance with hunting regulations are more complicated in the case of CNP due to the transboundary activity and precarious border history. One method involves regulations for specific vulnerable species, while allowing people to hunt other species (Bowen-Jones et al. 2003), though this tactic also requires more sophisticated monitoring activity. Another method engages local communities in hunting regulation. This method would curtail blanket regulations against hunting in favour of working with local people to protect wildlife and conserve livelihoods (Hampshire et al. 2004).
The transboundary nature of CNP poaching complicates both methods, and neither has been practiced in the study area. As one community resident noted, the governments discuss the frontier area, but people from the border communities are not involved.
In addition, our findings suggest that regulation is less important than subsistence concerns, meaning that policies should focus on alternative livelihoods. Previous literature has explored alternative conservation measures, and authorities increasingly attempt to decrease economic incentives for poaching. Alternative livelihood projects tend to be location specific and have mixed results. For example, ecotourism programmes have been successful in some communities, but they have failed to provide conservation benefits and economic returns elsewhere. Therefore, it would be worth exploring incentives to refrain from poaching in the communities near CNP, but such efforts must consider factors such as business planning, ecological management, regulatory structure, and location accessibility and infrastructure (Tallis et al. 2008; Pires and Moreto 2011).
Further research should explore the link between hunting and xate extraction to inform alternative livelihood projects. As noted earlier, according to authorities and some interview respondents, hunting is a by-product of xate extraction. In addition, one CNP study reported anecdotal evidence of increased hunting associated with xatero activity, along with observations of protected animals' carcasses in xatero camps (Bridgewater et al. 2006). The connection between poaching and xate extraction suggests that in order to address poaching, the significant issue of xate extraction also would need to be addressed. In addition, further research may make a case for stronger xate regulation, requiring suppliers to provide product information, or the need for an educational programme throughout the xate commercial chain to discourage purchase of plants from unsustainable harvest activities.
Community residents indicated that livelihood projects have been attempted in their communities. One El Naranjon resident said that officials have offered economic programmes, but they have not followed through. A Sacul Arriba resident said that they once had a xate plantation in the community, and a Centro Maya resident said they had a fish farm project, but neither project was successful. In addition, a Las Flores resident indicated that the government promised economic projects, but nothing materialised. Further research should assess the viability of specific economic projects in these communities as well as why previous projects have failed.
One method that could decrease poaching in the near term is conservation education. Even when researchers recognise poverty as the overwhelming reason for poaching, they still recommend wildlife education as an effective intervention (Grey-Ross et al. 2010). Education programmes can help persuade people that wildlife is valuable and should be conserved to the extent possible (Liu et al. 2011). A few residents recalled that educational talks have taken place in their communities. A Centro Maya resident said that someone from Belize had visited his community to discuss forest conservation about two years before this interview was held. Another resident said that they "need[ed] more capacity for people to be able to care for the woods." Finally, a Monte Los Olivos resident said: "Sometimes people come to talk about the importance of the woods, but people don't do it. They don't take care of the woods." Authorities believe that poaching threatens CNP wildlife, but ongoing educational programmes have not yet been employed to help reduce the threat.
Consistent education could increase the capacity that the Centro Maya resident indicated was lacking, but it would be important to be mindful of the messenger. In line with Grandia's (2012) experience, some Guatemalan community residents indicated distrust towards Belizean authorities. For example, a Las Flores resident stated that there was no confidence in Belize, and a Monte Los Olivos resident claimed that Belize only wanted to threaten Guatemalans.
Clearly, Belizean authorities stand to gain from transboundary cooperation that could provide education and development programmes in support of Guatemalan citizens. Such activities would appear to be in the broader self-interest of Belizean conservation managers, suggesting a unique response to conservation in international boundary regions.
| Acknowledgements|| |
The authors thank Dr Meredith Gore and Dr Daniel Kramer for their input in designing the study and their helpful comments on drafts of this manuscript. We also thank Cameron Williams for his help with the map image. In addition, we thank Friends for Conservation and Development staff and the Poptún mayor's office for their assistance in carrying out the study. We also thank Michigan State University's Graduate School and Office of the Vice President for Research for funding to carry out this research.
- Some ecologists, for example, have supported regulated xate extraction (Salafsky et al. 1993), but only in the context of other successful preservation practices and minimal land use pressure. With increased resource demand and limited protected area success, these scientists would presumably no longer support such strategies in CNP.
- Local groups also take a stand on the issue. For instance, Belize's Ya'axche Conservation Trust (yaaxche.wordpress.com/about) opposes transboundary xate harvesting, while Guatemala's ProPeten ( http://www.propeten.org/ ) promotes xate cultivation to avoid other destructive practices.
- We thank an anonymous reviewer for directing us towards these competing approaches.
- We did not consider official dates of community establishment because settlement begins before official declaration of the community's existence. Instead, we asked each respondent about their personal length of time in the community to understand how their experiences affected response to hunting concerns.
- For more information, see Sribney 2005. We also explored the interaction between gender and subsistence by creating a dichotomous variable for observations in which the individual was both a male and suggested that hunting was not merely for food acquisition-the only set of cases in which there was meaningful variation on the dependent variable. This variable (male/non-subsistence) performed well (p~.02) in a model with all other controls included.
- Twenty-nine of 50 respondents stated that they could be punished for hunting, including five respondents who did not think hunting was prohibited, but thought there was some form of retaliation for hunting.
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[Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]
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