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 The Role of Research in Conservation

At the PGFV, we believe in encouraging non-invasive research that will advance the 4 following areas;

1.   The welfare and well-being of gorillas within the Sanctuary; 

2.   The rehabilitation progress and reintroduction potential of young orphaned gorillas (i.e. behavioural
     assessment, foraging ability);

3.   The protection of threatened wildlife, including wild gorilla populations, in the Fernan-Vaz lagoon area;

4.   Local development and the livelihood of the local community.

Research Project : 2009
Title:                Human-Wildlife Conflict: Farmers' Perceptions of Crop-Raiding         
                    by Wildlife around the Fernan-Vaz Lagoon, Gabon
Researcher:                  Camila Morcos, BSc., MSc.  

                               Degree of Master of Science in Conservation Biology

                               Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology

                               University of Kent, United Kingdom

Conflicts between the local people and wildlife

    Crop raiding by wildlife is a common form of conflict worldwide which is caused by competition between farmers and wildlife for invaluable space and resources. On the one hand, damage done to crops by wildlife can compromise the livelihood of the local people who are often without governmental support and limited alternative revenue-generating possibilities.  On the other hand, wildlife is compelled to survive within a human-altered environment that is progressively fragmenting due to various forms of habitat encroachment, such as; increasing human population growth, industrial activities, and the spread of agriculture.  This has culminated in the following issues:   


Issue 1:             The local people developing a negative perception on the value of wildlife;


Issue 2:             The local people sometimes killing threatened wildlife species to protect their



Issue 3:             Conservationists being concerned with the sustainable management of

                        threatened species, such as the forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis), the

                        western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), and the common chimpanzee

                        (Pan troglodytes);


            Issue 4:             Local conservation projects (i.e. the Fernan-Vaz Gorilla Project (FVGP),

                                    struggling to convey the importance of protecting apes and our natural habitat.


                                                 Researcher Camila Morcos conducting a structured
                                        interview with a local farmer © Camila Morcos
Research on the impact of crop raiding by wildlife on the local people
     For long term success of conservation strategies/initiatives, evaluation of any negative impact(s) from wildlife on the local people living nearby forests is crucial.  This study focused on the impact of crop raiding by wildlife on farmers in five local villages of the Fernan-Vaz lagoon area, with the objectives being to:  


Objective 1:      Determine contributing ecological and social factors to the conflict;  


Objective 2:      Identify wildlife species involved in crop raiding events;


Objective 3:      Assess the local people’s perception of wildlife and local conservation



        Research assistant showing damaged crop                                 Camila Morcos interviewing local farmers
       © Camila Morcos                                                            © Camila Morcos

How do the local people feel about wildlife invading their crops?
     The results of this study indicated the following:


Result 1:           The majority of farmers living in the Fernan-Vaz Lagoon area are completely

                        dependent on agriculture for subsistence and consider crop raiding by wildlife

a significant nuisance;  


Result 2:           Ten mammal species are involved in causing crop damage, with elephant,

                        cane rat, and western lowland gorilla listed as the top worst crop raiders,

                        followed by the African porcupine, the common chimpanzee, various

antelope species, and the forest buffalo;


Result 3:           Many farmers expressed their frustration related to the lack of support from

                        its local government, and others did not understand why either the

                        government or the local conservation initiatives emphasized the importance of
                        protecting species that threaten their livelihood.


    This study examined crop raiding by wildlife from the local farmers’ perspective, results from which preliminary baseline data can be used for future research. It provides a foundation towards reducing the negative impact of crop raiding by wildlife in the Fernan-Vaz Lagoon area.  This is important since a better understanding of the local farmers’ views and attitudes towards wildlife can orient local conservation initiatives, such as the FVGP, with respect to their conservation strategy.  
 Research assistant, Landry, showing a gorilla skull from a gorilla
killed during a crop raiding event © Camila Morcos


A sincere thank you to all collaborators in Gabon

I am grateful to: 

Dr.OKOUYI Joseph from the “Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique”

(CENAREST) in Libreville for his collaboration, sound advice, and for issuing my research



Mr. NOUNGOU Adrien, “Directeur de la Faune et de la  Chasse” (DFC), for accepting to meet

with me in Libreville to discuss the issue of crop raiding by wildlife in Gabon; 


The “Conseil Départemental d’Etimbwé” for their support locally;


The local people for their willingness to participate in this research, and for being so friendly,

honest, and patient with me;


My two local research assistants, PAMBO DIBILA Landry Charles and MBEMBE Jean-Louis,

for their hard work, patience, and for giving me insight into rural village life in Central Africa;  


Africa’s Eden and the Société de Conservation et Développement (SCD) for providing some

financial support including accommodation during my research; 


And, finally, a very special thank you to the Fernan-Vaz Gorilla Project (FVGP) for their

encouragement,  logistical support during fieldwork, and promoting research focused on the

needs of the Fernan-Vaz local people.  

Researcher contact information

If you have any questions or if you’d like to learn more about my research, please do not hesitate to contact me (Camila Morcos) at cmmorcos@hotmail.com.