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Parts of southern Belize are designated as a corridor for the jaguar Panthera onca but the Maya region remains understudied. We therefore studied jaguar habitat use, activity patterns, and interactions with people in Blue Creek, a Maya village in a human-dominated tropical landscape in southern Belize. We used camera traps to detect jaguar presence, and interviews to assess local people's attitudes to and perceptions of jaguars. We recorded 28 independent photographic events during 1,200 camera-trap nights (i.e. a relative abundance index of 2.3 jaguars per 100 trap days). Seven individual jaguars were identified. Jaguars preferred lowland broad-leaf tropical forest and were detected more often during daylight, in contrast to findings from previous studies. Attitudes towards jaguars were largely positive: 88% of respondents (n = 48) did not fear jaguars living around the village, and 81% understood the positive effect that jaguars have on the ecosystem. Although 92% of respondents reported seeing a jaguar within the previous 2 years, attacks on livestock in the village were rare, with only two occurrences in the previous 3 years. Ecotourism has grown rapidly in Belize in recent years, and Blue Creek is home to several natural tourist attractions and an eco-lodge that brings tourists, school groups, and researchers to the village. Ecotourism has provided an economic incentive for village investment in conservation, and 94% of respondents stated that preservation of wildlife, including jaguars, was beneficial to their well-being.
Traditionally, conservation programmes assume that local peoples’ support for parks depends on receiving material benefits from foreign exchange, tourism, development and employment. However, in the case of forest parks in Africa, where annual visitation can be small, local support may instead result from ecosystem services. Kibale National Park, a forest park in Uganda, demonstrates that people appreciate parks in ways that are seldom cited nor explored. Public perceptions of benefits accrued from Kibale were explored using two different sampling techniques: a community census and a geographic sample. In both surveys, over 50% of respondents perceived benefits provided by Kibale National Park, and over 90% of those who perceived benefits identified ecosystem services, whereas material benefits were cited less frequently. Multimodel selection on a suite of general linear models for the two different sampling methods provided a comparison of factors influencing perceptions of ecosystem services. Perceptions of Park benefits were influenced by geography, household and respondent characteristics, and perception of negative impacts from the Park. Perceived ecosystem benefits played an important role in the way the Park was viewed and valued locally. Parks have considerable impacts on neighbouring communities, and their long-term political and economic sustainability depends on managing these relationships well. Since local people have the most to gain or lose by conserving neighbouring parks, analyses that incorporate the perceptions of local people are essential to management and sustainability of park landscapes.
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