Oribi antelope (Ourebia ourebi), South Africa’s most endangered antelope species, are predominantly found on privately-owned lands. As such, the implementation of conservation strategies on these lands is essential if the species is to avoid extinction in South Africa. In order to develop effective private land conservation strategies for oribi, it is necessary to go beyond the ecology of the species and possess an understanding of private landowners’ attitudes towards and knowledge of oribi and oribi conservation efforts. To date, this information has not been collected in South Africa. In order to address this research gap, I analysed survey data from private landowners in the province of KwaZulu-Natal (where the largest proportion of oribi in South Africa are found) to investigate, 1) why landowners are willing to protect oribi, 2) landowners’ perceptions of the threats facing the species, and 3) landowners’ understanding of how lands should be managed for oribi. In general, landowners proved willing to protect and conserve oribi and other wildlife on their lands, largely due to a sense of moral obligation. Predation by jackal and illegal hunting with dogs were perceived to be the greatest threats facing oribi. Somewhat concerningly, however, was that most landowners had little knowledge of oribi and their habitat requirements, and did not know how to manage their lands for the benefit of the species.
Private land oribi conservation strategies have, thus far, been unsuccessful in ensuring the effective conservation of the species. The development of more effective conservation strategies requires an understanding of the factors that are likely to influence landowners’ willingness to participate in these strategies. Yet, such information has not been collected for
oribi owners in South Africa. To address this research gap, I examined survey data collected from private landowners in KwaZulu-Natal in order to investigate factors that influenced their stated willingness to enrol in potential oribi conservation programmes. Certain landowner characteristics, such as their motivations for pursuing farming as a career, had some influence on their stated willingness to enrol in oribi conservation programmes. Programme design, such as the incentive offered, duration of programme enrolment and conservation practices required, also impacted landowners’ willingness to enrol, dependent upon whether the features were liked or disliked by the individual landowners.
Despite the provision of incentives, formal conservation programmes proved unpopular amongst surveyed landowners, largely due to concerns over political autonomy. As such, alternative means of encouraging conservation efforts by private landowners, such as outreach and education programmes, should be explored. This study provides crucial insight into where gaps exist between landowners’ and ecologists’ understanding of oribi and how the species should be managed. Ultimately, the findings of my research can be used to inform further research into the design of private land oribi conservation programmes in South Africa, and potentially set the basis for additional programmes for other aspects of biodiversity.