We have the pleasure of welcoming Timothy Kuiper, Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science (ICCS), University of Oxford, to present his research findings.
Date: 9 December
Venue: Room G07, Elmfield Building, Dept of Politics & International Relations
Ranger-based monitoring has enormous potential to inform conservation management globally, with tens of thousands of wildlife rangers patrolling extensive areas and recording observation of illegal activity and biodiversity. Ample quantitative research has demonstrated the pitfalls and potential of data collection by rangers, yet little previous work has considered its social dimensions. Here I interview 23 rangers and eight supervisors involved in a long-term programme for monitoring and managing elephant poaching in the Zambezi Valley, Zimbabwe. I seek to assess the importance that rangers ascribed to data collection within their broader occupation, and their level of engagement in data management and use. The occupational culture (shared norms, beliefs and values) of rangers emerged as a prominent theme, with three key dimensions: (1) a strong sense of duty (to their supervisors, country, and future generations), (2) deference to authority, and (3) knowing their place and defined role within the organisational hierarchy. This culture had an overarching influence on rangers’ stated motivations and behaviours, including the nature and level of their engagement with ranger-based monitoring. Rangers considered monitoring illegal activities to be a fundamental duty, and reporting these data was a primary way they fulfilled responsibilities to their supervisors. Rangers generally did not engage actively with data management and use (this was seen as the supervisors’ remit). Some rangers expressed a desire for feedback on how the data they collected were used for conservation, saying it would motivate more engaged data collection, while others said such feedback would not change their motivation (they would do their job regardless). A small number of rangers, data champions’, showed strong buy-in to data-based management and said that a lack of an intrinsic appreciation of the full data management cycle among rangers was a significant barrier to more effective and sustainable ranger-based monitoring. More broadly, this work demonstrates the value of understanding the motivations and culture of wildlife rangers when implementing conservation interventions that rely on them as key actors.