In southern Africa, many early conservation efforts from the late 1800s and early 1900s either displaced local communities or restricted their access to natural resources. This naturally affected community attitudes towards protected areas and efforts were later made to rectify growing tensions. In the last few decades of the 20th century, these efforts led to conservation and ecotourism models that increasingly included communities in the decision-making and benefit-sharing process in order to garner their support. Although the results of these policies were mixed, it is clear that the future success of conservation and, consequently, ecotourism in many areas will depend on the attitudes and behaviour of communities living in or adjacent to protected areas. Managing and understanding community expectations and attitudes under varying socio-economic circumstances will lead to more efficient, equitable and sustainable community-based conservation and ecotourism models. This study was based on 1400 community interview schedules conducted in Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, allowing for an accurate comparison of attitudes across countries, protected areas and communities. The results highlighted important demographic and socio-economic factors to consider in terms of understanding the attitudes of those living in and around protected areas. Suggestions were put forward for managing community relationships and garnering long-term support for protected areas and ecotourism. Conservation implications: It was observed that, in general, community members living in or adjacent to conservation areas in southern Africa have an understanding and appreciation of the importance of conservation. Formal education was found to positively impact attitudes and human–wildlife conflict negatively impacted attitudes, highlighting important policy focus areas.
Sustainable Development Goals