Evaluating the relative effectiveness of alternative conservation interventions in influencing stated behavioural intentions: A case study of the saiga antelope in Kalmykia
Evaluating the relative effectiveness of different conservation interventions is difficult and rarely undertaken. Conservation of the critically endangered saiga antelope in the Republic of Kalmykia (Russia) provides a unique experimental set-up that was used to disentangle this issue. This study uses the amount pledged for conservation, adapted from contingent valuation methods, as a measure of behavioural intention to contribute to saiga conservation, to evaluate conservation effectiveness. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 250 individuals in eight villages exposed to traditional 'fences-andfines' conservation, livelihoods enhancement (social engagement) or low-level media coverage. The intervention employed had a direct effect on amount pledged for saiga conservation. Social engagement programmes decreased protest-bidding behaviour but resulted in low amounts pledged for saiga conservation. Those exposed to media coverage pledged the greatest amounts on average, whilst those exposed to traditional conservation had both a high level of protest bidding and low pledges from those who pledged something. The primary reason given for protest bids was that the government or international community should pay for conservation. This may be a relic from the Soviet era, and may explain low pledges for conservation under social engagement. Ecological knowledge strongly affected amount pledged. The results were influenced by cultural and demographic factors, including residence time, exposure to saigas, age, wealth and knowledge regarding conservation. This study is unusual in disentangling the effect of a conservation intervention from other factors, and proposes using amount pledged for conservation as a practical tool for evaluating the effectiveness of projects aimed at increasing awareness and promoting positive behavioural intentions towards conservation. It provides support for media awareness-raising as a successful conservation intervention.