Achieving international biodiversity targets: learning from local norms, values and actions regarding migratory waterfowl management in Kazakhstan.
Migratory species are protected under international legislation; their seasonal movements across international borders may therefore present opportunities for understanding how global conservation policies translate to local-level actions across different socio-ecological contexts. Moreover, local-level management of migratory species can reveal how culture and governance affects progress towards achieving global targets. Here, we investigate potential misalignment in the two-way relationship between global-level conservation policies (i.e. hunting bans and quotas) and local-level norms, values and actions (i.e. legal and illegal hunting) in the context of waterfowl hunting in northern Kazakhstan as a case-study. Northern Kazakhstan is globally important for waterfowl and a key staging area for arctic-breeding species. Hunting is managed through licences, quotas and seasonal bans under UN-AEWA intergovernmental agreements. To better understand the local socio-ecological context of waterfowl hunting, we take a mixed-methods approach using socio-ecological surveys, informal discussions and population modelling of a focal migratory goose species to: (a) investigate motivations for hunting in relation to socio-economic factors; (b) assess knowledge of species' protection status; and (c) predict the population size of Lesser White-fronted Geese (LWfG; Anser erythropus; IUCN Vulnerable) under different scenarios of survival rates and hunting offtake, to understand how goose population demographics interact with the local socio-ecological context. Model results showed no evidence that waterfowl hunting is motivated by financial gain; social and cultural importance were stronger factors. The majority of hunters are knowledgeable about species' protection status; however, 11% did not know LWfG are protected, highlighting a key area for increased stakeholder engagement. Simulations of LWfG population growth over a 20-year period showed LWfG are highly vulnerable to hunting pressure even when survival rates are high. This potential impact of hunting highlights the need for effective regulation along the entire flyway; our survey results show that hunters were generally compliant with newly introduced hunting regulations, showing that effective regulation is possible on a local level. Synthesis and applications: Here, we investigate how global conservation policy and local norms interact to affect the management of a threatened migratory species, which is particularly important for the protection and sustainable management of wildlife that crosses international borders where local contexts may differ. Our study highlights that to be effective and sustainable in the long-term, global conservation policies must fully integrate local socio-economic, cultural, governance and environmental contexts, to ensure interventions are equitable across entire species' ranges. This approach is relevant and adaptable for different contexts involving the conservation of wide-ranging and migratory species, including the 255 migratory waterfowl covered by UN-AEWA (United Nations Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds).