Poverty is frequently perceived to be the root cause of illegal natural resource use – the hunting or extraction of wildlife not sanctioned by the state. When unsustainable, such activities threaten conservation of ecosystems and endangered species. However, understanding what motivates individuals involved is a major challenge; understandably few are willing to discuss their motives for fear of punishment . Furthermore, severe, multifaceted poverty overlaps with regions prioritised for their globally important biodiversity . This association exacerbates the problem that illegal activities pose for policy-makers responsible for managing and policing the use of nature. The dominant approach to conserving biodiversity is to establish protected areas  which typically restrict resource use and manage infractions through law enforcement . However, the designation of such areas does not guarantee compliance, as demonstrated by ongoing infractions  and its conspicuous profile on global policy agendas. This includes the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which calls for urgent action to halt biodiversity loss and hunting of protected species . Solving this problematic cocktail of poverty, exclusion from resources and drivers of illegal resource use requires a new approach to understanding why people break rules and to what extent poverty underpins behaviour. Recent advances in cutting-edge techniques for asking sensitive questions are paving the way towards a more accurate understanding of the prevalence and drivers of illegal acts . Combining conservation social science with development studies, criminology and social psychology, this project will examine, for the 1st time, the relative importance of multidimensional poverty and socio-psychological characteristics in dictating people’s involvement in illegal resource use which will be contextualised by histories of national park establishment and how the idea of illegality shifts through time.
Fields of science
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