Attitudes and perceptions of local communities towards the reintroduction of black rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis) into their historical range in northwest Kunene Region, Namibia: a Masters Dissertation from 2004
Abstract. This paper examines the attitudes and perceptions of rural communities living in three conservancies in the Kunene Region of Namibia towards wildlife in general, and to the reintroduction of black rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis) into these conservancies, which fall within the historical range of this species. A questionnaire survey was undertaken in May and June 2004 that captured information on demographic data, socio-economic data and knowledge of wildlife amongst households residing close to the current rhino range, as well as with those living in the middle of the surveyed conservancies as well as neighbouring self-sufficient conservancies. A high proportion of respondents were found to be very positive towards conserving wildlife as well as to the reintroduction of rhino. Positive attitudes tended to be associated with education and were also associated with households that already benefit from the conservancy, as well as amongst those who live next to conservancies with good benefit-sharing schemes. These findings suggest that benefits influence attitudes. It was found additionally that respondents whose family members work in tourism-related fields were very positive towards conserving wildlife. Education level, age, gender, occupation and which conservancy respondents were from were the most important factors influencing attitudes of respondents towards conserving wildlife. At the same time, a proportion of respondents were not in favour of conserving wildlife, reportedly since they do not receive any benefits from wildlife, incurring only losses to livestock and crops from wildlife, and especially from elephants and predators.
Potential release sites for black rhino reintroduced to conservancy areas were identified by respondents and assessed separately for their habitat suitability, access to surface water and the impact of human settlements in these areas. The Klip River area of the ≠Khoadi-||Hôas Conservancy was found to be the most favourable site for reintroducing rhino. Zonation of this area by the conservancy for only wildlife use further supports this site being considered for the reintroduction of rhino into their historical range in the following year. Finally, it was realised that examination of the relationship between local communities and conservation issues requires deeper understanding of the history of the region as well as factors shaping regional political concerns.
Key words. Black rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis); Kunene Region, Namibia; ≠Khoadi-||Hôas Conservancy; Omatandeka Conservancy; ||Huab Conservancy; species reintroduction; CBNRM; biodiversity conservation