Rather than introducing a pre-planned scheme of collaborative management between Thung Yai government officials and Karen villagers (whose relationship is one of distrust), this project initiated a learning process directed toward incremental improvement of the status of wildlife - in particularly mammals that are poached for commercial trade (tiger and baur) and subsistence use (porcupines and civets).
Collaborative workshops were organized with the intention of: (1) combining the knowledge of local woodsmen into an information base about the conservation status of mammals; (2) developing a shared understanding of conservation problems; and (3) identifying opportunities for collaborative action. These events became known locally as wildlife workshops. Workshops consisted of three parts: wildlife status assessment, impact assessment, and conservation planning. Two workshops were conducted, each requiring 2 days. Five villages participated overall. For each workshop, 5–10 elders and hunters from two to three villages were invited as chief participants. Village headmen also participated, and young people were encouraged to come as observers. Two to three rangers from nearby ranger stations and officers from Thung Yai headquarters attended.
The final part of each workshop was a collaborative planning exercise, without being proclaimed as such. In this case, Karen participants and Thung Yai officials agreed that:
- They share similar concerns about the declining status of wildlife, wish to face the problem, and recognize the need to work together;
- Commercial poaching has had the biggest impact historically and is the most pressing current threat;
- Subsistence hunting is unsustainable for some species (muntjacs, sambar), especially where it overlaps with areas of heavier mortality caused by commercial
- Villages should form conservation committees (of elders, active woodsmen, and young people) to participate in future activities and communicate with outsiders;
- Conservation problems must be addressed on both local and regional scales (inside Thung Yai Wildlife Sanctuary, managers and local Karen agree that joint
patrols be initiated and targeted at poaching hotspots identified in the workshops);
- Villagers should designate “wildlife recovery zones” as a form of spatial harvest management
- A joint monitoring system to track the distribution and relative abundance of 11 focal species should be established for locally threatened species
These ideas were subsequently written into Thung Yai’s first collaborative management plan. In the 3 years since wildlife workshops were held, each component has been implemented. Most villages now have officially recognised conservation committees. Two joint monitoring teams have been trained and equipped. They have conducted 12 sign surveys along 250 km of trails, generating information on the status of large carnivores and ungulates, the distribution of poaching activity, and recolonization of one area by elephants. One wildlife recovery zone (30 km2) has been established and another surveyed. The zone has received increased publicity, management attention, and patrols, and there are fewer reports of either subsistence or commercial hunting in the area. Communication has increased, mostly through quarterly village meetings that protected-area officials now frequently attend.