The Journal of Conservation and Society recently published an article by Dr. Eli Knapp, assistant professor of intercultural studies and biology at Houghton College, and alumni Nathan Peace ’16 and Lauren Bechtel ’16. This is Bechtel and Peace’s first publication.
The article in the journal’s January-March 2017 issue, titled “Poachers and Poverty: Assessing Objective and Subjective Measures of Poverty among Illegal Hunters Outside Ruaha National Park, Tanzania,” originated in a desire to explain why poachers, a notorious yet elusive group, engage in this illegal behavior. Knapp, Peace, and Bechtel collected the research in collaboration with local Tanzanians while participating in Houghton’s study abroad program in the country in the spring semester of 2014. The data from surveys and interviews with over 170 self-admitted poachers revealed a strong relationship between illegal hunting and poverty, and the three researchers concluded that poverty shouldn't be reduced only to the value of a poacher's assets or the amount of his income. Equally important are subjective measures of poverty and basic capabilities, freedoms that might allow a poacher to educate his children, support his parents, or withstand crop failure.
Knapp hopes his research will contribute to the creation of viable solutions to illegal hunting by dispelling common myths about the character and motivations of poachers. “Poachers have consistently been misrepresented in the media (and sometimes academia),” says Knapp. “As I developed relationships with inveterate poachers and heard their stories, I realized how erroneous this prevailing idea was. The majority were good people, doing anything and everything they could to feed their families… I hope this research causes wildlife managers and development practitioners to realize the error of viewing this group as homogenous while noting the importance of building up local capabilities and agency.”
Read the full article on the journal’s website.