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A critical investigation of conservation attitudes of the local community living adjacent to Akagera National Park, Rwanda
Over the past years, protected areas have been affected by illegal activities, which are perpetrated by humans and continuations of these activities do not only harm wildlife, but also the welfare of current, as well as, future generations. Conservation of wildlife cannot be achieved if local community support is not ensured. This study aims to find whether or not improved or positive relationships between protected area and people can effect long-term conservation of wildlife. The main objectives of the study were to investigate conservation attitudes of the Rwandan community that lives adjacent to the Akagera National Park. A quantitative survey-based study, which used a self-administered structured and closeended questionnaire, was undertaken within a period of a month and a half to obtain information about conservation attitudes within the local community. In addition, qualitative data was gathered through in-person unstructured interviews with key informants including local authorities and park officials in order to verify and enrich quantitative data, which was obtained from the survey. Collected data was analysed with use of the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) for descriptive statistics in the form of tables and charts. In addition, statistical tests, using chi-square values at the 0.05 level of significance, were conducted to determine which factors influence the local community’s conservation attitudes. The study revealed that the local community support Akagera National Park’s conservation although they participate in illegal activities within the park. Poaching and livestock grazing are the main illegal activities that take place at Akagera National Park. The study also found that people’s awareness of wildlife importance does not necessarily translate into positive attitudes towards conservation. Problems caused by wildlife, combined with the absence of economic opportunities from the protected areas, are strong influencing factors regarding the local community’s conservation attitudes. The findings of this study suggest that the local community’s support for conservation can only be achieved if problems that are caused by wildlife are effectively addressed and solved and people are provided with more economic opportunities, which would allow them to improve their welfare.