Goats for Hope Project

Goats for Hope Project

Project background

Species of focus: 



Bukit Barison Selatan National Park in southwestern Sumatra

Summary description: 

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has helped the government of Indonesia protect tigers by protecting livestock (mostly goats) from tiger attacks in villages near the Bukit Barison Selatan National Park in southwestern Sumatra. Before WCS helped start the Goats for Hope project, rural communities had little confidence in government programs intended to address human-tiger conflict and perceived many of these programs as imposing unjust rules limiting traditional use rights. As a result, government rules regarding trapping and hunting of tigers and their prey were ignored or flouted. Many families set traps for pigs and other tiger prey and encouraged professional poachers to rid them of tigers that preyed upon these sources of food. Overall, the cost of living with tigers discouraged communities from engaging in anti-poaching activities, and encouraged both retaliatory killings and support for professional tiger poachers.

Through Goats for Hope, a Wildlife Response Unit works with local people to build tiger-proof enclosures to secure livestock at night, support night patrols that keep tigers at a distance from village livestock, and respond rapidly to community reports of human-tiger conflict.

Land management type: 

State managed protected area

Product(s) in trade: 

Types of poachers: 

Individuals from outside
Project implementation

Is the project implemented by an external party? 


Implementing organisation: 

Wildlife Conservation Society

Name of funding organisation(s): 

Not specified.

Community organisation(s) involved: 

Not specified.

Was the project established specifically to engage communities in combatting IWT? 


Project status is currently: 

Community engagement

Approach taken to community engagement and its rationale: 

Human wildlife conflict addressed as a way to decrease incentive for revenge killing of wildlife


The project helps communities generate additional income by providing higher quality breeder goats.


Not specified.

The community engagement project is: 

Stand alone initiative

What “rules of engagement” for working with communities does the case study address? 

Acknowledge and address costs to communities from living alongside wildlife

What has been the impact on poaching/IWT? 

Don’t know/Case study/project has not assessed impact on poaching

What has been the impact on wildlife populations? 

Not known/not documented

Further detail about the impact on poaching: 

Within the first year of implementing Goats for Hope in the 11 villages in Talang, the number of goats and chickens killed by tigers declined by 80% and has continued to decline. Community members are now willing to halt retaliatory killing of tigers and curb hunting tiger prey for food. Rather than helping professional hunters, they now provide actionable intelligence to the Wildlife Crime Unit. The project has also changed community perceptions regarding the hunting of tigers and their prey. Communities increasingly understand that killing tiger prey within the park increases the likelihood that tigers will leave the park in search of food, thus increasing the threat to livestock. At the same time, communities have begun to recognize that there are benefits to having tigers in the park, since they eat pigs that are the main source of crop damage. Goats for Hope has been successful in changing the behavior of local communities to protect rather than kill tigers because the program began with something that communities really wanted to stop – tiger killing of livestock – and helped them realize that there were greater benefits from conservation than the killing of tigers and their prey.
Lessons learned about engaging communities

What worked about the community engagement approach and why? 

A literature review, interviews and case studies (including but not limited to the Goats for Hope Project) have revealed the following set of key factors that conservation practitioners should consider when assessing the risks and rewards of engaging communities in anti-poaching and anti-trafficking efforts.

  1. Ownership - Communities with rights of ownership and who directly benefit from conservation and sustainable use have a strong incentive to detect and inform on poachers. This factor is particularly pertinent when the benefits accrued through sustainable wildlife management meet or exceed those that could be attained by poaching or trafficking, or by helping others who poach. Benefits do not always have to be monetary: increased security of access to valued natural resources and the authority to exclude non-rights holders from using community resources are also incentives. This devolution of ownership and management authority from the state to the community can reinforce cultural identity. Simply put, when communities perceive poaching to be stealing from them, they will inform on their own community members and even take considerable risks to inform on and confront outsiders.
  2. Trust in law enforment - Individuals are typically not motivated to assist the police (or other arresting authority) in crime prevention and law enforcement if they perceive their authority to be illegitimate, and their actions corrupt, unaccountable, or unfair. Likewise, law enforcement officers are often distrustful of local communities when they see them as poachers and scofflaws. Evidence shows, however, that frequent and personal interactions between community members and law enforcement officers can build the necessary trust on both sides. Personal interaction encourages both engagement by the local community and responsiveness from the authorities, which in turn improves crime prevention, increases arrests of law breakers, and increases citizen safety. Law enforcement officers are more likely to respond to local communities when they see them as legitimate owners of their lands and wildlife and, therefore, that poaching is a breach of property rights.
    Community members are understandably reluctant to become active in crime prevention efforts if they fear retaliation from criminals, who may be members of their extended family or community. The anonymity of informers, therefore, is key. Individuals are more likely to cooperate with and provide information to the police if they can do so through a community organization because this masks their identities and reduces the risks of retaliation. Individuals who do provide actionable intelligence to the police – either directly or through a community organization – often stop if the police and judiciary fail to prosecute and punish crimes effectively. They feel their efforts to engage with the police are worthless, and they fear that the release of suspected criminals will increase their risk of reprisals.
  3. Community cohesion - The ability of a community to mobilize and organize to prevent crime and enforce the law depends on the level of social cohesion and sense of trust toward fellow community members. Residents who have a strong sense of community – i.e., this is my neighborhood and it is important to me – will be more likely to want to defend it from both inside and outside criminals. The kind of collective action required for communities to engage in anti-poaching and anti-trafficking activities is unlikely if neighbors do not trust one another. Communities that do come together and work collaboratively with law enforcement agencies can co-produce public safety. Evidence shows that this is the most effective way to reduce or prevent crime of all types. The police alone cannot solve the poaching and trafficking problem; they must co-produce a reduction of crime with local people.considerable risk.
  4. Minimising risks to communities - There is almost universal agreement that civilians should not confront criminals. Community members should only report, provide information to the police, serve as witnesses, and take preventative measures. Their roles should be as scouts, informants, and guides, and not law enforcers. In special situations in which their roles are justifiably extended to confronting and detaining poachers prior to police arrest (e.g., LMMAs where detecting poachers on the water is already very difficult), the authorities have a responsibility to ensure that community members are appropriately trained to deal with these situations and will not become targets for reprisals as a result of their efforts.
    Risks to community members are lower when poachers are from the community, have social ties with the community, and when wildlife is of low value. Informants risk being shunned or even physically abused by poachers when communities have low social cohesion. However, local informants are at much greater risk from organized criminal gangs with no social ties to the community who poach for high-value wildlife products, particularly if they encounter or attempt to confront the poachers. Timely and competent support from a trusted national arresting authority is essential to minimize physical risk to community members who engage in anti-poaching and anti-trafficking activities. The risks are further diminished when the law enforcement process works (i.e., arrested poachers are charged, put on trial, and punished when convicted). Without a trusted and competent arresting authority that is able and willing to respond rapidly when communities ask for their assistance, local informants who provide intelligence about high-value wildlife poaching remain at considerable physical and social risk.

What did not work and why? 

Not specified.

Case study information is up to date as of: 

Bibliographic information

Main source(s) of information: 

Published documentation


Measuring Impact - Rewards and Risks Associated with Community Engagement in Anti-Poaching and Anti-Trafficking


Wilkie D, Painter M and Jacob A

Year of publication: 


Journal/Book/Series details: 

Biodiversity Research Paper



Place published: 

Case study entry information

This case study entry compiled by: 

Francesca Booker

Date of case study entry: 

Monday, 5 September, 2016