Economic and social problems facing many developing countries jeopardize the effectiveness and very existence of their national parks and protected areas. Rural poverty exacerbates the need for access to natural resources in protected areas and increases public conflict with protected-area management. A prerequisite for the long-term sustainability of parks and protected areas is public involvement and support for the conservation of natural resources.
Towards the above ends, the present study analyses local residents' attitudes, knowledge, and concept of values concerning conservation and the management of natural resources in Machalilla National Park, Ecuador. A survey was administered of 90 households in three villages located within the Park boundaries and two villages adjacent to the Park. Survey results indicated that local residents living either within or adjacent to Machalilla National Park hold a variety of negative attitudes towards the Park. Positive attitudes tended to increase with respondents' level of education (X2 = 19.001, df = 2, p < 0.0001) and knowledge about conservation issues (X2 = 26.616, df = 1, p < 0.0001). Younger residents (X2 = 12.960, df = 2, p = 0.002), respondents perceiving benefits from the Park (X2 = 14.292, df = 2, p = 0.001), and respondents reporting good relations with the Park staff (X2 = 5.514, df = 1, p = 0.019), were more positive towards the Park. Factors influencing public attitudes are compared with study results in other countries.