Factors influencing people's perceptions towards conservation of transboundary wildlife resources. The case of the Great-Limpopo Trans-frontier Conservation Area.
Local people's perceptions of protected areas greatly determine the success of conservation efforts in Southern Africa as these perceptions affect people's attitudes and behaviour in respect to conservation. As a result, the involvement of local communities in transboundary wildlife conservation is now viewed as an integral part of regional development initiatives. Building on unique survey data and applying regression analysis, this paper investigates the determinants of local communities' perception towards wildlife conservation and the Great Limpopo Trans-frontier Conservation Area in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Our results show that the perception that management of the park is good positively affect the perception of benefits from the park, rules governing the park, and how people perceive wildlife in general. Perceptions of park management negatively affects people's perceptions of environmental crime, while household expertise positively affects the perceptions of environmental crime. Our results show that if people perceive the rules of the park in a negative way, then they are less likely to conserve wildlife and at the same time this will increase the likelihood of environmental crime. Receiving benefits from the park seem to have a positive effect on people's perception of the rules governing the park and wildlife, but not on perceptions about environmental crime. Surprisingly, perceived high levels of corruption positively affects people's perception of wildlife benefits and environmental crime. There is lack of evidence of the role of socioeconomic variables on people's perceptions towards wildlife. However, our data seems to support the idea that unobservable contextual factors could be responsible for explaining part of the variation in people's perceptions. Our results speak to the literature on large-scale collective action since people's perception of wildlife benefits, corruption, environmental crime, park management, and rules governing the parks affect their ability and willingness to self organize. These variables are interesting because they can be influenced by policy through training and awareness campaigns.