Norris, D., Michalski, F., & Gibbs, J. P. (2018). Community involvement works where enforcement fails: Conservation success through community-based management of Amazon river turtle nests. PeerJ, 2018(6), e4856.
Law enforcement is widely regarded as a cornerstone to effective natural resource management. Practical guidelines for the optimal use of enforcement measures are lacking particularly in areas protected under sustainable and/or mixed use management regimes and where legal institution are weak. Focusing on the yellow-spotted river turtles (Podocnemis unifilis) along 33 km of river that runs between two sustainable- use reserves in the Brazilian Amazon as an illustrative example, we show that two years of patrols to enforce lawful protection regulations had no effect on nest harvesting. In contrast, during one year when community-based management approaches were enacted harvest levels dropped nearly threefold to a rate (26%) that is likely sufficient for river turtle population recovery. Our findings support previous studies that show how community participation, if appropriately implemented, can facilitate effective natural resource management where law enforcement is limited or ineffective.