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To develop more effective interventions, conservationists require robust information about the proportion of people who break conservation rules (such as those relating to protected species, or protected area legislation). Developed to obtain more accurate estimates of sensitive behaviors, including rule-breaking, specialized questioning techniques such as Randomized Response Techniques (RRTs) are increasingly applied in conservation, but with mixed evidence of their effectiveness. We use a forced-response RRT to estimate the prevalence of five rule-breaking behaviors in communities living around the Ruaha–Rungwa ecosystem in Tanzania. Prevalence estimates obtained for all behaviors were negative or did not differ significantly from zero, suggesting the RRT did not work as expected and that respondents felt inadequately protected. To investigate, we carried out a second study to explore how topic sensitivity influenced respondents' propensity to follow RRT instructions. Results from this experimental study revealed respondents understood instructions well (~88% of responses were correct) but that propensity to follow RRT instructions was significantly influenced by the behavior asked about, and the type of answer they were required to provide. Our two studies highlight that even if RRTs are well understood by respondents, where topics are sensitive and respondents are wary of researchers, their use does not necessarily encourage more honest responding.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12927
JournalConservation Science and Practice
Issue number6
Early online date31 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

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