Communication, education, and public awareness (CEPA) campaigns play an increasingly important role in biodiversity conservation (Jacobson & McDuff 1998; Monroe 2003). The negative social impacts of state and market mechanisms to conserve biodiversity has stimulated a search for community-based approaches that advocate the participation of local resource users in decision-making processes and the integration of conservation and development objectives (Ghimire & Pimbert 1997; Berkes 2004). It is now widely recognized that disseminating information to and enhancing the knowledge of rural communities is essential for the sustainable management of natural resources (Baland & Platteau 1996; MEA 2005). Conservation projects use a variety of social marketing techniques such as posters, comic books, billboards, flipcharts, newsletters, and radio plugs to raise public awareness, change attitudes, and influence behavior (Sutherland 2000). But only scant data exist on the cost effectiveness of these efforts (Fien et al. 2001; Ferraro & Pattanayak 2006). It is estimated that 40–50% of all CEPA campaigns fail, but as most of these education and communication efforts are not assessed, the organizers never find out (Ostergaard 2002). CEPA campaigns can be significantly improved if experiences would be more thoroughly documented, compared, and substantiated with scientific evidence (Sutherland et al. 2004; Steward et al. 2005). This is particularly relevant in developing countries, such as the Philippines, where financial resources for conservation are scarce, governments typically lack the capacity to enforce environmental legislation, and poor, rural communities often regard restrictions on resource use as arbitrary and illegitimate (Sodhi et al. 2004).
This article assesses the effectiveness of a CEPA campaign for the conservation of the Philippine crocodile Crocodylus mindorensis in the wild in the northern Sierra Madre on Luzon, the Philippines. Commercial hunting has led to the disappearance of this endemic species throughout most of its historic range (Ross & Alcala 1983). At present, the species only survives in the northern Sierra Madre on Luzon and the Liguasan Marsh on Mindanao. With less than 100 mature crocodiles in the wild, the species is classified on the IUCN red list as critically endangered (IUCN 2010). Since 2004, the Philippine crocodile is legally protected (by virtue of the Wildlife Act, Republic Act 9147). However, most people in the Philippines, including many government officials, are unaware of the protected status of the species or consider the enforcement of environmental legislation of low importance (van der Ploeg & van Weerd 2004). Philippine crocodiles continue to be killed for food or out of fear, most often without a response from the authorities. People think crocodiles pose a threat to children and livestock. Moreover in Philippine society, crocodiles are associated with egoism and greed: corrupt government officials and selfish athletes are called buwaya, crocodile in Filipino. These negative public attitudes inhibit in situ crocodile conservation (Banks 2005).
In 1999, a conservation project was set up to save the species in the wild: the crocodile rehabilitation, observance, and conservation (CROC) project (van der Ploeg et al. 2008). Conservation efforts focus on 15 remote barangays (villages) in the municipality of San Mariano. In cooperation with the department of development communication of Isabela State University (ISU), a CEPA campaign was designed to mobilize broad public support for the conservation of the species in the wild. This goal is reflected in the slogan of the campaign: “the Philippine crocodile; something to be proud of!” The underlying logic of the campaign is that by disseminating information on legislation protecting crocodiles, the killing of the species would stop. Between 2002 and 2008, the CROC project spent U.S.$80,000 on environmental communication and education; approximately 25% of the total project budget. In this article, we aim to determine whether the CEPA campaign succeeded in raising awareness on the protected status of the Philippine crocodile, change attitudes toward the in situ conservation of the species, and influence behavior of people living in Philippine crocodile habitat.
Changes in awareness, attitudes, and behavior are affected by a diverse set of context-related factors that can often not be attributed to a specific intervention (Schacter 2002; Sollart 2004). Therefore, following Fien et al. (2001), we assess the CEPA campaign for the Philippine crocodile in San Mariano in terms of the material products of the project (outputs), the number of people exposed to the outputs (outreach), the changes brought about by the outputs in people's awareness and attitude (cognitive and affective outcomes), and the longer term cumulative effect of the CEPA campaign on people's behavior (impact) (Figure 1).