Predicting the risk of illegal activity and evaluating law enforcement interventions in the western Serengeti

Abstract:

Illegal activity within protected areas is a primary driver of species decline and threatens conservation efforts. In the western corridor of the Serengeti Ecosystem of northern Tanzania, the Grumeti and Ikorongo Game Reserves and Ikona Wildlife Management Area provide an important buffer between permanent settlements and Serengeti National Park, while simultaneously maintaining critical wildlife habitat. Understanding the spatial distribution and environmental drivers of illegal activity is critical to optimize biodiversity protection efforts in this important ecosystem. We examined a rare dataset containing detailed records of reserve game scout patrol effort and occurrences of illegal activity between 2013 and 2016. We used presence only data to construct predictive models of five categories of illegal activity. We derived spatial predictions of the likelihood of different activities and identified the environmental variables predictive of risk for each activity. The highest risk areas were located along reserve edges, further from roads and scout camps, suggesting avoidance of enforcement presence. Activities associated with wildlife offtake were the most widely distributed in the study area and extended into the national park. Permanent scout camps were more effective deterrents of all illegal activities than observation posts, but their limited spatial influence demonstrated additional enforcement strategies are required. Read Full Publication

Authors

Kristen Denninger Snyder, Philemon B. Mneney and George Wittemyer

Published online by Wiley Online Library: 21 June 2019