To address both the impacts of poaching on the wildlife and human populations and create effective conservation policy, conservation efforts must engage communities and include their views as stakeholders in the development of the policy. The involvement of local people has been shown to increase the effectiveness and sustainability of conservation efforts. However, to appropriately engage local people, the government and conservationists must understand their experiences with wildlife, and how local communities' experiences with human-wildlife conflict and poaching influence their willingness to support wildlife conservation programs. Using the Asian elephant as an example, we developed what we consider to be a more realistic, theoretical model linking changes to elephant populations with conservation interventions and human welfare that includes negative feedback loops. We then designed a series of studies to illustrate and test some of these links at several field sites across Myanmar. This dissertation outlines the discovery of the extent and nature of elephant poaching in Myanmar, and presents results from interviews with people in rural and urban communities to assess their attitudes towards human-elephant conflict (HEC) and elephant conservation, their perceptions of poaching in Myanmar, and the direct impacts and indirect impacts of HEC that they experience. This theoretical model can be used to guide government and research organizations in the field of wildlife conservation and help to develop more effective and sustainable conservation programs.
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