Trends and dynamics of poaching at the Mole National Park

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Poaching is one of the major problems in wildlife conservation and management in the Mole National Park ecosystem. Unfortunately, it is not easy to identify poaching hotspots because poaching activities are dynamic and concealed in nature, thus there are no standardized methods to quantify them.This study was based on patrol data collectedbetween January 2003 to December 2008. The specific objectives of this study were: to identify the profile and motivational factors of poachers; to evaluate the categories of illegal activities committed by wildlife offenders; to determine trends in illegal activities in relation to patrol effort and abundance of large mammal and to demostrate how the Management Information System (MIST), a law enforcement monitoring tool depicts temporal and spatial trends in the distribution of illegal activites,patrol paths and animal sightings. To collect the data, both primary and secondary data sources were acquired. Primary data was gathered using questionnaires. Secondary data was gathered through literature review from both published and unpublished materials, internet, maps and records from the Wildlife Division of Forestry Commission and the wildlife conservation researchers in Ghana:s database. Data collected was coded and analyzed using the appropriate tool in the Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS) to generate descriptive statistics. The illegal killing of wildlife for meat is believed to be one of the greatest direct causes of wildlife decline in West African;s parks. This study used existing arrested poachers data which in which wascollectedfor the period of 2003 to 2008 as an indicator of human exploitation of the natural resources in thepark. The aim of this study was to investigate the trends and dynamics of poaching within and around Mole National Park. Many types of serious, as well as less serious, crimes have attracted the attention of protected areas managers in Africa. However, despite its detrimental effect upon wildlife populations, most managers have devoted scant attention to the study of poaching and poachers. Identification of the specific motivations for poaching is necessary for wildlife. A law enforcement monitoring and a GIS based (MIST) system operational in the park was used to analyze the vulnerability of the park to illegal activities from the surrounding villages based on accessibility and level of motivation expressed in terms of the desire to exploit natural resources in the park. The motivation attributes of arrested poachers used were, poverty, hunting as a tradition/culture, food, medicinal, closeness to the park, easy access to ready market for bush meat trade, and others. MIST monitoring system was used to display spatial and temporal distribution of poaching events in the park. Patrol data from park field staff representing encounters with mammals and illegal activities were combined with patrol effort to get the trends in poaching and dynamics of poaching in the park. From 2006 to 2008 patrol staff performance steeply improved well above average (20.56 effective patrol day/staff/month), poaching reduced by 34.39 %/year on average and wildlife encounter increased by 3.85%/year. The dataset from arrested poachers and the five motivational factors (predictor variables) that are poverty, tradition (hunting), medicinal and others (-food, monetary profit, trophies and adventure) were tested for their significance in explaining some of the reasons for poaching within Mole National Park. A stepwise logistic regression method was used to select the explanatory variables. Among the five predictor variables, only poverty and food had significant relationships (r=-0.2529,p<0.05). Spatial distribution of poaching events were observed in the park except for the extreme north which had biased distribution as a result of minimal patrols in that area during the study period. The distribution of poaching events around the park could be linked with seasons as more events were recorded during the dry season. The poaching map also indicates that areas with high concentrations of animals were the high areas of poaching events. The distribution map of illegal activities and mammals in relation to patrol path in Mole National Park provided an insight on how vulnerable the park is to illegal activities. The MIST based analysis presented in this study successfully depicted poaching areas in the park. Such maps are of benefit to management of Mole National Park. They facilitate decision making on intervention programs and how best to direct law enforcement patrols within and around the park.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Wildlife and Range Management, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy.