2.2. Interview Instruments and Survey Process
Between March and September 2017, we interviewed 496 people from three communities across Macanao (Boca del Río, El Horcón, and Robedal; Figure 1
b) using a self-reporting questionnaire. All participants were adults (>18 years old), and had lived in Macanao for at least one year. We obtained verbal informed consent from each subject, after explaining the research objectives and assuring subjects that information would be used only for research, and presented the data in aggregate analyses, protecting each participant’s identity [23
]. The survey protocol was approved by the Laboratory of Political Ecology of the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research (February 2017), who acted as the external ethical committee. Households were chosen randomly from community maps, by selecting every fourth house. The sample size represented 21–30% of households in each community.
We evaluated the general socioeconomic context of participants by asking about their age, gender, level of education, employment status, source of income, and whether this income was enough to cover family monthly expenses. The survey instrument evaluated three distinct aspects related to conservation practice [1
]: (1) ecological outcomes, (2) acceptability of conservation management, and (3) social processes influencing the effectiveness of conservation actions (Table 1
). To assess perceived ecological outcomes, we evaluated three aspects: awareness of conservation status, perceived threats and their impact on wild populations, and the success of surveillance in preventing fledgling poaching (Table 1
). We measured awareness by asking two closed questions: whether the participants keep parrots at home (owners) or not (non-owners), and if they think there are more parrots in captivity than in the wild (yes/no). We evaluated the perceived impact on the wild population by asking two closed questions: “Do you think that the wild parrot population will go extinct in the next 10 years?” and “Do you think that the wild parrot population is stable, declining, or increasing?” To assess people’s knowledge about threats faced by the wild parrot population, we asked an open question—“What is the main threat faced by parrots?”—and then reclassified the answers into four categories: “unsustainable use”, “deforestation”, “drought”, and “predators.” We asked “Where do you think your parrot comes from?” as a closed question, with the names of the most important nesting sites as options. We used this question as a measure of surveillance effectiveness, as La Chica has been the only nesting site under protection during the last 31 years (Table 1
To measure the acceptability of conservation management, we evaluated three aspects: support for the conservation program, perceptions of other stakeholders in the process, and perceived responsibilities and roles. We measured support for the conservation program by asking awareness of Provita’s work with a closed question “Do you know Provita’s work?”, and whether it addresses the main threats to the species: “What do you think is the main conservation problem that Provita cares for?” For this latter question, we reclassified the answers into the same four categories we used to assess people’s knowledge about threats, so that responses were comparable. Given that the Ecoguardians are a key stakeholder, we inquired about perceptions towards Ecoguardians with an open question, and then reclassified the answers into positive and negative perceptions. To assess perceived responsibilities, we asked which are the institutions responsible for parrot conservation (Provita, communities, or government authorities). To evaluate the role that people have in the illegal parrot trade chain, we used an open question “How did you get your parrot?” We then reclassified the answers into four categories “harvested”, “bought”, “rescued”, and “present/gift” (Table 1
To understand social processes affecting conservation action, we evaluated two aspects: the social value of parrots and attitudes towards harvesting, selling, and keeping. We used an open question “What does your parrot mean to you?”, and then we reclassified the answers into three categories: “pet”, “a family member”, or “symbol.” We also asked whether their parrot was provided by a member of the community, a relative, or an outsider. We used a statement to measure attitudes toward keeping parrots as pets, which was “I will always want to keep a parrot as pet”; we assessed answers on a five-point scale that ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). We asked about attitudes towards reporting poaching with a closed question “Do you report poachers?”, and in the instances with negative replies we additionally asked “Why not?” and aggregated the answers into four categories: “denounce”, “not denounce”, “indifferent”, and “support.” We evaluated attitudes toward extraction and selling using open statements, such as “Fledgling parrot extraction is…” and “Selling fledgling parrots is…”, and then we classified the answers into positive or negative attitudes. (Table 1
). Finally, we asked how much their parrots were worth in national currency, and converted it into USD using the weekly mean of the currency exchange rate, and how many individuals they currently keep captive.
We summarized the responses (number of records and percentages) for each variable at the community level and for the overall sample.