• Human-Giraffe Interactions: Characterizing Poaching and Use of Parts as a Threat to Giraffe in Northern Kenya

      Ruppert, Kirstie (The University of Maine, 2020)
      Giraffe (Giraffe spp.) are iconic wildlife species to Africa, yet relatively little conservation funding and research have been directed at protection of giraffe in the wild. A growing number of national governments and conservation organizations are implementing management strategies to address the threats that giraffe face. To inform these plans, there is a need for social science that examines the human pressures associated with decline of giraffe populations, including poaching and the use of giraffe parts. As the large majority of reticulated giraffe (Giraffa reticulata) range occurs outside formally protected areas, conservation plans must be made with pastoralist communities and other actors in northern Kenya where the land is shared between people, their livestock, and wildlife. The research presented in this dissertation was conducted as part of a community-based program focused on reticulated giraffe, called the Twiga Walinzi Initiative (“Giraffe Guards” in Swahili), and represents the first quantitative study on the human dimensions of giraffe conservation. Goals of the research project were to examine key cognitions to human-giraffe interactions (i.e. attitudes, beliefs, perceptions), assess relationships between certain cognitions within areas that adopt a community-based conservation approach, and understand the extent and drivers of giraffe meat and part usage. Face-to-face interviews were conducted at two study sites over survey periods in 2016/17 (n=579) and 2019 (n=680). Results from these studies provide insights to how pastoralist communities view and act toward local giraffe. Factors that significantly influenced support for giraffe conservation differed between study sites, suggesting that local context is important to shaping human-giraffe interactions (Chapter 2). For instance, perceived benefits had stronger influence on normative belief in communities more recently connected with wildlife-based tourism. The linkages between perceived benefits, attitudes, and behaviors were further explored by assessing the relationships between these concepts within a community-based conservation setting (Chapter 3). Findings suggest a positive association between perceived benefits and attitudes toward giraffe, but there was less evidence that perceptions of wildlife-related benefits influenced use of giraffe meat/parts. As human behavior is of central interest to conservation, we also assessed levels of giraffe meat consumption (Chapter 4) and determinants of intention to consume giraffe meat (Chapter 5). Specialized questioning techniques were utilized to estimate prevalence of giraffe meat consumption preceding the two surveys. Estimated prevalence of giraffe meat consumption declined after establishment of the Twiga Walinzi. Perceived behavioral control had stronger relative influence than attitudes and subjective norms on future intention to consume
    • Linking Behavioral Diversity with Genetic and Ecological Variation in the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti)

      Abwe, Ekwoge E. (Drexel UniversityPhiladelphia, PA, 2018)
      The chimpanzees of Cameroon present a unique opportunity to investigate how ecological variation contributes to promoting intraspecific divergences in the endemic mammals of the region.... This thesis explores environmental and ecological differences between rainforest and ecotone habitats at a fine geographic scale, and compares and contrasts chimpanzee socioecology patterns between these habitats.
    • The influence of social context on animal behavior: Implications for conservation

      Owen, Megan A. (University of California, Los Angeles.Los Angeles, 2014)
      The pervasive perturbation of natural systems by human activities has rapidly changed the social context of many free-ranging animals, potentially reducing the efficiency of reproductive strategies, as well as the effective population size (Ne). Behavioral flexibility can be beneficial to species confronted with rapid contextual change, and the range of flexibility may ultimately influence whether a species can buy the time needed to respond adaptively to change. From the perspective of conservation management, an understanding of species' behavioral flexibility may improve predictions regarding the effects of rapid environmental change on populations, and facilitate the application of behavioral knowledge to conservation management. Fundamentally, an animal's decision-making processes are responsible for generating flexible behavioral responses, thus the lability of mechanisms underpinning decision-making influences the flexibility of behavioral responses. Here I evaluate the study of animal decision-making across scientific disciplines. I critically assess the use of animal decision-making in conservation and suggest ways in which decision theory could enhance conservation strategies. My empirical research is focused on the influence of social context on behavioral flexibility in the endangered giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). The panda is a compelling species in which to study behavioral flexibility in the conservation context, because they are solitary, and females are seasonally-monoestrus and ovulate spontaneously. While energetic constraints play a prominent role in reproductive strategies, little is known regarding their mating system or the plasticity of reproductive behavior. Pandas are behaviorally expressive, using multiple modes of signaling during courtship, however, a holistic understanding of multimodal signaling in the species is lacking. Further, although populations are depleted throughout most of their range, the influence of social context on behavior and communication has not been described. Here we show that female signaling effort is generally lower in the exclusive presence of other females, suggesting that females can modify their behavioural efforts during the pre-ovulatory period according to the prevailing social context. We also found that multimodal signaling during social interactions did not consistently evoke an immediate, discrete response from receivers. Together these findings suggest that giant pandas demonstrate a limited degree of flexible behavioral responses dependent upon the prevailing social context.