Research Report

Assessing Motivations for the Illegal Killing of Lesser White-fronted Geese at Key Sites in Kazakhstan (2017)



Jones I, Whytock R & Bunnefeld N (2017) Assessing Motivations for the Illegal Killing of Lesser White-fronted Geese at Key Sites in Kazakhstan (2017). UN-AEWA. AEWA Lesser White-fronted Goose International Working Group Report Series, 6. Bonn, Germany.

The Lesser White-fronted Goose (LWfG) is a globally threatened migratory species (Jones et al., 2008). North-western Kazakhstan hosts important staging grounds for the autumn and spring LWfG migration (Cuthbert and Aarvak, 2016; Yerokhov, 2013). Hunting is a primary driver of declining LWfG populations, but the motives behind illegal LWfG hunting are currently unknown (Jones et al., 2008; Madsen et al., 2015). In September and October 2017, questionnaire surveys were developed and deployed with the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan (ACBK). The aim was to identify the social, economic and demographic drivers for goose hunting in general and illegal hunting of LWfG in particular. Since there is also potential for accidental hunting of LWfG, this can enable conservation work to be targeted towards demographics most responsible for goose hunting. Surveys were conducted by two teams across Northern Kazakhstan and Kostanay Regions, with a total of 189 people responding in full to the questionnaires. Questionnaires employed the Unmatched Count Technique (UCT) which is an effective technique when attempting to elucidate patterns of human behaviour relating to socially sensitive activities including illegal hunting (Nuno and St. John, 2015). We assessed the ability of the UCT to detect patterns in human behaviour with low sample sizes, by testing whether goose hunting prevalence increased with goose hunting licence ownership. As expected, ownership of hunting licences was a significant predictor of increased goose hunting prevalence, and confirmed the method’s validity for asking sensitive questions regarding hunting. To investigate potential illegal goose hunting we asked if respondents had undertaken goose hunting during the spring/summer season. Waterbird hunting was banned in spring/summer from 2017, and therefore we tested compliance levels with this new legislation. We found no evidence of non-compliance among our survey respondents, and thus no evidence for illegal goose hunting during the spring/summer season. However, our sample sizes were smaller than expected and even though the validation suggested the method worked successfully, this result should be interpreted with caution. Using direct questioning we found strong evidence suggesting that there is a significant lack of knowledge regarding whether LWfG are protected or not, including respondents who owned goose hunting licences: 11 % of respondents owning a goose hunting licence did not know LWfG were protected. Given that there are an estimated 10,000 hunters in north-western Kazakhstan (Yerokhov, 2013) we therefore estimate that potentially over 1000 hunters, with goose hunting licences, may be unknowingly illegally hunting LWfG through lack of knowledge of species protection. Our analysis revealed that hunting for cash was not found to be a motivator for goose hunting. However, we stress that the majority of our survey respondents were likely to be engaging in legal goose hunting, and therefore identifying motives for illegal hunting remains a challenge mainly due to the highly dispersed nature of hunters across the landscape. We were also not able to ask questions about accidental illegal hunting of LWfG because it was deemed to be too sensitive. Future work should focus on increasing survey sample size and adding additional questions regarding self-reporting of hunting take and accidental take of LWfG. Questionnaires should also be developed across the LWfG flyway as motives for hunting will likely differ between geographic regions due to differing socio-economic and socio-ecological situations.

FundersNorwegian Environment Agency and Finnish Ministry for the Environment
Title of seriesAEWA Lesser White-fronted Goose International Working Group Report Series
Number in series6
Publication date31/12/2017
Publisher URL…sites-kazakhstan
Place of publicationBonn, Germany

People (2)


Professor Nils Bunnefeld

Professor Nils Bunnefeld

Professor, Biological and Environmental Sciences

Dr Isabel Jones

Dr Isabel Jones

Senior Research Fellow, Biological and Environmental Sciences