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Social Science Research

Working with people is a priority for SANParks. The organisation gets its fresh ideas and information that helps to optimize its daily work and decisions from Social Science Research. The quantity and quality of this research in the parks has increased remarkably since the inception of the Social Science Research unit in 2004. In the previous year 41 research projects were conducted on a range of topics including archaeology, womens rights, community/park relations, legislation and the demand for social and spiritual benefits of protected areas.

If you would like to apply to conduct a Social Science Research project in a National Park, please follow the “Research Application Procedure” below, and complete the required form:

Social Science Research is managed from the SANParks Scientific Services Nodes based in both Kimberly and in the Kruger National Park. The Social Science Unit initiates, coordinates and monitors all research which focuses on the interface between people, parks and conservation. It then makes sure the research results find their way to managers and specialists – so it can be used as input for informed decisions in park planning, interventions and development. The unit also promotes and markets Social Science Research in SANParks to researchers and academic institutions and related organizations.

In the past when scientists were doing research on things such as population studies of lions or elephants little consideration was given to the need for studies around the people and parks’ interface. It has only been in the last decade that the importance of engaging with local communities and a whole range of constituencies has come forward. This was highlighted more recently at the World Parks Congress (2003) which was hosted by South Africa. It is now acknowledged worldwide that protected areas can no longer be managed as islands using a ‘fences and fines’ mentality. The future existence of those areas hangs on the ability of local communities and conservation agencies to engage and resolve issues around sustainable development.

In 2003, the Social Science Research Committee was constituted. This body plays a key role in monitoring and ensuring quality research and playing an educational and supportive role to researchers. The members provide SANParks with an excellent networking opportunity and provide guidance and assistance with social science issues. The committee comprises specialists in various fields of social science from a broad range of tertiary education and research institutions including specialists from SANParks' Conservation Services.

For more information, please contact Louise Swemmer ( and Kelly Scheepers (, the Programme Managers for Social Science Research in SANParks.