Date of Award

Spring 3-26-2020

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Ecology and Environmental Sciences

Advisor

Carly Sponarski

Second Committee Member

Jenny Glikman

Third Committee Member

Sandra De Urioste-Stone

Additional Committee Members

Caroline Noblet

Laura Rickard

Abstract

Giraffe (Giraffe spp.) are iconic wildlife species to Africa, yet relatively little conservation funding and research have been directed at protection of giraffe in the wild. A growing number of national governments and conservation organizations are implementing management strategies to address the threats that giraffe face. To inform these plans, there is a need for social science that examines the human pressures associated with decline of giraffe populations, including poaching and the use of giraffe parts. As the large majority of reticulated giraffe (Giraffa reticulata) range occurs outside formally protected areas, conservation plans must be made with pastoralist communities and other actors in northern Kenya where the land is shared between people, their livestock, and wildlife. The research presented in this dissertation was conducted as part of a community-based program focused on reticulated giraffe, called the Twiga Walinzi Initiative (“Giraffe Guards” in Swahili), and represents the first quantitative study on the human dimensions of giraffe conservation.

Goals of the research project were to examine key cognitions to human-giraffe interactions (i.e. attitudes, beliefs, perceptions), assess relationships between certain cognitions within areas that adopt a community-based conservation approach, and understand the extent and drivers of giraffe meat and part usage. Face-to-face interviews were conducted at two study sites over survey periods in 2016/17 (n=579) and 2019 (n=680).

Results from these studies provide insights to how pastoralist communities view and act toward local giraffe. Factors that significantly influenced support for giraffe conservation differed between study sites, suggesting that local context is important to shaping human-giraffe interactions (Chapter 2). For instance, perceived benefits had stronger influence on normative belief in communities more recently connected with wildlife-based tourism. The linkages between perceived benefits, attitudes, and behaviors were further explored by assessing the relationships between these concepts within a community-based conservation setting (Chapter 3). Findings suggest a positive association between perceived benefits and attitudes toward giraffe, but there was less evidence that perceptions of wildlife-related benefits influenced use of giraffe meat/parts. As human behavior is of central interest to conservation, we also assessed levels of giraffe meat consumption (Chapter 4) and determinants of intention to consume giraffe meat (Chapter 5). Specialized questioning techniques were utilized to estimate prevalence of giraffe meat consumption preceding the two surveys. Estimated prevalence of giraffe meat consumption declined after establishment of the Twiga Walinzi. Perceived behavioral control had stronger relative influence than attitudes and subjective norms on future intention to consume giraffe meat. Collectively, these research findings are relevant for applied giraffe conservation efforts and provide a framework for understanding human-giraffe interactions and associated threats in diverse global settings.

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