Are ranger patrols effective in reducing poaching-related threats within protected areas?

Journal of Applied Ecology
By: , and 

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Abstract

  1. Poaching is one of the greatest threats to wildlife conservation world-wide. However, the spatial and temporal patterns of poaching activities within protected areas, and the effectiveness of ranger patrols and ranger posts in mitigating these threats, are relatively unknown.
  2. We used 10 years (2006–2015) of ranger-based monitoring data and dynamic multi-season occupancy models to quantify poaching-related threats, to examine factors influencing the spatio-temporal dynamics of these threats and to test the efficiency of management actions to combat poaching in Nyungwe National Park (NNP), Rwanda.
  3. The probability of occurrence of poaching-related threats was highest at lower elevations (1,801–2,200 m), especially in areas that were close to roads and tourist trails; conversely, occurrence probability was lowest at high elevation sites (2,601–3,000 m), and near the park boundary and ranger posts. The number of ranger patrols substantially increased the probability that poaching-related threats disappear at a site if threats were originally present (i.e. probability of extinction of threats). Without ranger visits, the annual probability of extinction of poaching-related threats was an estimated 7%; this probability would increase to 20% and 57% with 20 and 50 ranger visits per year, respectively.
  4. Our results suggest that poaching-related threats can be effectively reduced in NNP by adding ranger posts in areas where they do not currently exist, and by increasing the number of patrols to sites where the probability of poaching activities is high.
  5. Synthesis and applications. Our application of dynamic occupancy models to predict the probability of presence of poaching-related threats is novel, and explicitly considers imperfect detection of illegal activities. Based on the modelled relationships, we identify areas that are most vulnerable to poaching, and offer insights regarding how ranger patrols can be optimally deployed to reduce poaching-related threats and other illegal activites, while taking into account potential sampling biases. We show that poaching can be effectively reduced by increasing ranger patrols to areas under high risk of poaching activities, and by adding ranger patrols near these sites. These findings are broadly applicable to national parks and protected areas experiencing a high degree of poaching and other illegal activities.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Are ranger patrols effective in reducing poaching-related threats within protected areas?
Series title Journal of Applied Ecology
DOI 10.1111/1365-2664.12965
Volume 55
Issue 1
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 9 p.
First page 99
Last page 107
Country Rwanda
Other Geospatial Nyungwe National Park