Identifying indicators of illegal behaviour: carnivore killing in human-managed landscapes

Freya A. V. St John, Aidan M. Keane, Gareth Edwards-Jones, Lauren Jones, Richard W. Yarnell, Julia P. G. Jones

Abstract

Managing natural resources often depends on influencing people's behaviour, however effectively targeting interventions to discourage environmentally harmful behaviours is challenging because those involved may be unwilling to identify themselves. Non-sensitive indicators of sensitive behaviours are therefore needed. Previous studies have investigated people's attitudes, assuming attitudes reflect behaviour. There has also been interest in using people's estimates of the proportion of their peers involved in sensitive behaviours to identify those involved, since people tend to assume that others behave like themselves. However, there has been little attempt to test the potential of such indicators. We use the randomized response technique (RRT), designed for investigating sensitive behaviours, to estimate the proportion of farmers in north-eastern South Africa killing carnivores, and use a modified logistic regression model to explore relationships between our best estimates of true behaviour (from RRT) and our proposed non-sensitive indicators (including farmers' attitudes, and estimates of peer-behaviour). Farmers' attitudes towards carnivores, question sensitivity and estimates of peers' behaviour, predict the likelihood of farmers killing carnivores. Attitude and estimates of peer-behaviour are useful indicators of involvement in illicit behaviours and may be used to identify groups of people to engage in interventions aimed at changing behaviour.

  • Received June 10, 2011.
  • Accepted July 8, 2011.
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