Randomized hotspot strategy is effective in countering bushmeat poaching by snaring

Harmsen, H., Wang’ondu, V. W., Mbau, J. S., & Muthama, N. J.

Bushmeat poaching using snares is a widespread problem in African and Asian protected areas. Snares are hard to detect, and desnaring is resource-intensive. Research into this form of poaching has thus far concentrated on the identification of spatial snaring patterns and association of these patterns with selected variables. However, no research to date has examined and compared desnaring strategies. We developed and tested a predictive map to assess the likelihood of snaring in a Kenyan World Heritage site, based on 147 km of desnaring transects. This map was the basis for the simulation of desnaring strategies that leveraged insights from both criminal pattern theory and exploitation/exploration tradeoff theory. The proportion of recovered snares (desnaring) is maximized by increased visits to areas that are adjacent to snare recovery sites. Moreover, a strategy that employs a randomized hotspot search identifies more snares that were replaced by poachers after initial desnaring. A desnaring strategy that balances visits to known poaching hotspots (exploitation) with efforts to identify other hotspots (exploration) is more effective than a sequential site-by-site approach. This strategy has the added advantage of introducing patrolling patterns that are less predictable for poachers.