Engage local communities in conservation activities

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    not assessed
  • Certainty
    not assessed
  • Harms
    not assessed

Study locations

Key messages



  • Abundance (1 study): One site comparison study in Brazil found that areas where community-based management of fishing practices was implemented had a higher abundance of river turtles than areas with no community-based management.
  • Reproductive success (3 studies): Two before-and-after studies (including one site comparison study) in Mozambique and Costa Rica found that after involving the community in monitoring of nesting activity, fewer sea turtle eggs were lost to poaching than before projects began. One replicated, before-and-after study in Australia found that when management of a saltwater crocodile egg harvest passed to an Indigenous management group, the number of eggs collected and hatching success of those eggs was lower than when it was run by an external company.
  • Survival (2 studies): One study in the Philippines found that after rural community members were paid a small incentive to protect Philippine crocodile sanctuaries combined with an education and awareness campaign, fewer crocodiles were killed than before community engagement. One before-and-after study in Mozambique found that during a community-based turtle monitoring project no killing of adults was recorded.



  • Human behaviour change (1 study): One replicated study in Colombia found that in areas where communities were engaged in conservation initiatives relating to turtles, more people reported changing consumption habitats and fewer people reported using turtles for food compared to in areas with no initiatives, however, stated rates of hunting, buying and selling of turtles remained similar.

About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A study in 1999–2009 in freshwater and riparian zones in northern Luzon, Philippines (van Weerd et al. 2010) found that after rural community members were paid a small incentive to protect Philippine crocodiles Crocodylus mindorensis in three crocodile sanctuaries, along with being subject to an education and public awareness campaign, the number of crocodiles killed reduced. No Philippine crocodiles were killed in the sanctuaries between 2007 and 2009. The authors reported that most people in the area knew that crocodiles were legally protected. After a small population of crocodiles was discovered in 1999, three crocodile sanctuaries were created. The sanctuaries were protected by local community members who were paid a small incentive. A communication, education and public awareness campaign about the risks facing the crocodile was carried out (dates not provided) in the local rural communities. Details of monitoring and reporting of crocodile killings are not provided.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A before-and-after study in 2003–2007 on three beaches on Vamizi Island, Mozambique (Garnier et al. 2012) found that a community-based sea turtle monitoring project appeared to reduce egg collection and hunting of adults. During the four years of a community turtle monitoring project, no egg collection (122 nests were laid/year on average) or hunting of female turtles was recorded. The authors reported that prior to the turtle monitoring project beginning, egg collection and hunting of adult female turtles was common within the local fishing community. Following the formation of two fishing village committees to manage local fishing resources and implement regulations, the committees created a turtle sanctuary around the north-east of the island to protect turtle breeding and feeding grounds. Three nesting beaches were monitored nightly for several months/year by 15 local turtle monitors supervised by a marine biologist in January–July 2003–2007.

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A site comparison study in 2009 on a flood plain with mixed lakes and channels in Pará, Brazil (Miorando et al. 2013) found that areas with community-based management (CBM) of fishing practices, including limiting use of gill-nets, seasonal fishing restrictions, protecting turtle nesting beaches and a ban on turtle trading, had more river turtles than areas without CBM. The effect of different aspects of the management programme cannot be separated. Overall, turtles (including Podocnemis sextuberculata, Podocnemis unifilis and Podocnemis expansa) were more abundant in areas with CBM (321 individuals) than in areas without CBM (33 individuals). Podocnemis sextuberculata abundance and biomass was higher in areas with CBM (14 individuals and 20 kg biomass/1,000 m2 netting/12 hours) than in areas without (2 individuals and 3 kg  biomass/1,000 m2 netting/12 hours; data of other species not provided). The fishing agreement that formed the CBM programme had been in place for 20–30 years. While 13 communities in the area were a part of the fishing agreement, only two implemented the agreement. Turtle numbers were sampled at 14 sites (7 with CBM; 7 without CBM) in August–October 2009 using gill nets (15 nets/site; 215 m2 nets; 3 each of 5 mesh sizes) with help from local fishers.

    Study and other actions tested
  4. A before-and-after, site comparison study in 2005–2012 on a beach in Costa Rica (James & Melero 2015) found that after involving the local community in monitoring olive ridley turtle Lepidochelys olivacea nests that were relocated to a hatchery and camouflaged, egg poaching decreased. Results were not statistically tested. Egg poaching reduced from 85% in the year before community monitoring began (2005) to 10% of eggs in 2006–2012. In 2006–2012, the local community was involved in monitoring turtle nesting activity and provided 24-hour monitoring to nests that were either relocated to an on-beach hatchery (363 nests, 38%nests) or camouflaged (595 nests, 62%; details of camouflaging method not provided) to discourage illegal collecting. Relocated nests were randomly allocated a 1 m2 plot in the hatchery and dug into the sand. Hatchlings from both treatments were monitored on emergence and nests were excavated after hatching due dates to check hatching success.

    Study and other actions tested
  5. A replicated, before-and-after study in 1989–2015 in freshwater swamps and tidal river banks within four river systems in Northern Territory, Australia (Corey et al. 2018) found that once an Indigenous management company took over the harvest and incubation of saltwater crocodile Crocodylus porosus eggs, hatching success rates reduced by more than a third. Results were not statistically tested. When a saltwater crocodile egg harvesting programme was under Indigenous management, incubation success rates were reduced (654 hatchlings from 1,396 live eggs/year) compared when it was under external management (1,413 hatchlings from 1,659 live eggs/year). Egg collection rates were also lower under Indigenous management (Indigenous management: 1,416 eggs harvested/year; external management: 2,359 eggs harvested/year). Saltwater crocodile eggs were collected and incubated as part of a regional government-led sustainable harvest initiative. In 1989–1997 an external management company ran the programme. In 1998–2015 it was run by a local Indigenous management company. In 1996–1997 eggs were harvested by the external company and incubated by the Indigenous management company. There was no harvest in 2007–2008. Annual quotas were 2,700–3,000 eggs/year (total limit of 70,000 eggs/year across the territory). Eggs were incubated at a constant temperature of 32°C and ≥99% humidity. Local workers were paid based on the number of eggs collected and hatchlings produced.

    Study and other actions tested
  6. A replicated study in 2017 in 37 locations across six river drainage basins in northern Colombia (Vallejo-Betancur et al. 2018) found that in areas where communities were engaged in conservation activities, local residents claimed to have reduced their direct use of turtles compared to local residents in areas that were not engaged, although stated rates of hunting, buying and selling of turtles remained similar. Fewer local residents in areas engaged in conservation initiatives claimed to use the focal turtle species or other related turtle species as food (focal turtles: 10% of 50 participants; related turtles: 34% of 50) compared to local residents in areas with no conservation initiatives (focal turtles: 54% of 50 participants; sympatric turtles: 54% of 50), and more claimed to have changed their consumption habits regarding focal turtle species (with conservation initiatives: 36% of 50 participants; without conservation initiatives: 6% of 50 participants). However, stated rates of hunting, buying and selling turtles were similar whether or not residents were in areas with conservation initiatives (see original paper for details). Semi-structured interviews with local residents were carried out in 37 locations that were classified into areas where turtle conservation initiatives had been implemented (17 locations, 50 survey participants) and areas where they had not (20 locations, 50 survey participants). Conservation initiatives included head-starting (12 initiatives), community agreements to protect turtle habitat (2 initiatives), action against illegal wildlife trade (3 initiatives) and education in schools (1 initiative).

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Sainsbury K.A., Morgan W.H., Watson M., Rotem G., Bouskila A., Smith R.K. & Sutherland W.J. (2021) Reptile Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Interventions for reptiles. Conservation Evidence Series Synopsis. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

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Reptile Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Reptile Conservation
Reptile Conservation

Reptile Conservation - Published 2021

Reptile synopsis

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