Date of Award

Fall 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

David C. Earnest

Committee Member

Steve A. Yetiv

Committee Member

Angelica Huizar


Although wildlife crime has exploded in Africa over the past decade —“commercial poaching” now kills an estimated eight percent of the continent’s elephant population each year—some governments have proven more successful than others at protecting wildlife and preserving habitats. To explain this variation, this study examines how the policies of three states (Kenya, Tanzania, and Botswana) have enhanced or undermined the resilience of the continent’s elephant ecosystem. Using the social-ecological system framework, the study illustrates how each state’s changing practices have either exacerbated the stresses wrought by wildlife crime or successfully protected local populations from poaching. The study finds that monocausal explanations cannot explain social-ecological systems outcomes. Cross-level and cross-scale dynamics, including temporal, geospatial, epistemological, and institutional linkages, explain variation in system functionality. These dynamics include colonial policies, governance practices, the international conservation community, and resource use decisions.


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