Poaching continues to be reported by Nyungwe National Park (NNP) managers as a challenge to its conservation. This paper aimed to assess the factors influencing poaching and the impact on the conservation of NNP and to assess perceptions of local communities on the negative impact of poaching to the conservation of the protected area. Primary data collected using a checklist of questionnaire and secondary data was obtained by reviewing ranger-based monitoring (RBM) reports from 2013-2017 associated with socio-economic data from District reports. Data from respondents is expressed in percentages. Results indicate that poverty influenced poaching at 75.7%. Considering the complexity of poaching, other factors such as community proximity to the park, cultural related issues, commercial poaching and indirect involvement of females were also assessed. Findings show that the more community residents lived in proximity to the park, the more the probability of being involved in poaching. More than 60% of arrested poachers were living in areas less than 2 km from the edge of Nyungwe National Park. Men aged between 18 and 40 years were highly involved in poaching-related activities; but there was also evidence that females played an indirect role in poaching. At a level of 41%, communities have demonstrated their level of understanding that poaching has caused animal extinction, continuous decline in animal abundance and anthropogenic fires, and consequently reducing tourism revenues in NNP. Local communities proposed some actions for reducing continuous poaching such as provision of temporal jobs to communities adjacent to the edge of the park.
Keywords: Community Conservation, Poachers, Nyungwe National Park, landscape