Frog and reptile conservation through the lens of South Africa’s nature-based cultural practices

Fortunate Phaka, J.J.A. Hugé, Maarten P. M. Vanhove, Louis H du Preez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Ethnoherpetology improves our understanding of the conservation implications of nature-based cultural practices through investigations of the influence of traditional culture on frog and reptile species (herptiles). Improved understanding of the implications of human activities on these taxa is especially important as herptiles are experiencing global population declines. Furthermore, improved understanding of nature-based cultural practices can better inform conservation planning that includes cultural practices as defined by South African legislation. The herptile-based cultural practices recorded from a sample of 275 online questionnaire respondents and 68 publications show some cultural practices to compel or inspire protection of herptiles. Conversely, other practices were found to pose a conservation risk as they either involve killing herptile species or they perpetuate negative perceptions towards them. Leveraging protective cultural practices as a conservation tool and mitigating culture-motivated threats requires integrating cultural aspects into modern law. Such an integrative approach is possible under South African legislation’s provisions for socially inclusive conservation planning and recognition of customary law. Integrative conservation approaches are also in line with international policy such as the Kunming-Montreal global biodiversity framework. In addition to an inventory of herptile-based cultural practices, the study also assesses their feasibility as conservation tools. Furthermore, this study highlights a need for quantification of their conservation implications (both positive and negative) and aligning protective traditional cultural practices with modern means of law enforcement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-206
Number of pages17
JournalAfrican Journal of Herpetology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2023


  • herpetology
  • South Africa
  • biocultural diversity


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