Evidence of deterrence from patrol data: Trialling application of a differenced‐CPUE metric

Anthony Dancer, Aidan Keane, Colin M. Beale, Andrew D. M. Dobson, Rajan Amin, Robin Freeman, Inaoyom Imong, Kate Jones, Matthew Linkie, Barney Long, Francis O. Okeke, Andrew J. Plumptre, J. Marcus Rowcliffe, Emma J. Stokes, Elsabé Van Der Westhuizen, Ben Collen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ranger-led law enforcement patrols are the primary, site-level response to – and the most common source of data on – illegal activity threatening wildlife in protected areas. Yet evidence that patrols effectively deter rule-breaking is limited, and common management metrics for evaluating deterrence, which use ranger-collected data, are particularly vulnerable to bias. “Differenced plots” (of the association between change in patrol effort and subsequent change in illegal activity) were recently proposed as a simple, new metric for deterrence, which, in tests with simulated patrol data, were more robust than the common alternatives. Here, we trial application of differenced plots to real patrol data collected in four protected areas, and explore methods for applying the metric in practice, using two indicators of rule-breaking: snares, and people. We find evidence which is consistent with deterrence in some but not all sites, over shorter timescales than observed hitherto: increases in patrol effort were associated with subsequent reductions in snaring in one site, and in the presence of people in two sites. However, whether pressure on wildlife had been reduced or merely displaced was unclear from differenced plots, nor could the metric confirm absence of deterrence, raising questions for future applications. Our findings suggest differenced plots can be a useful metric, particularly for exploring variation in deterrence within sites, but should be applied and interpreted with care, and further work is urgently needed to determine whether and how patrols deter illegal activity, and to evaluate the effect reliably.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12746
JournalConservation Science and Practice
Early online date12 Jun 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Jun 2022


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