TROPICAL rainforests are the most biologically diverse terrestrial habitats on earth yet nearly all such ecosystems are located in developing countries (Ghazoul and Sheil 2010). Responsibility for stewardship of species richness is therefore borne by those who can least afford it. In many areas, poor people have few choices but to make a living by exploiting natural resources in ecologically valuable habitats. Limited education in developing countries can compound the difficulties of trying to develop and enforce conservation practices. The remote Indonesian Banggai Archipelago, is characterized by high biological diversity and contrastingly low income of its inhabitants. One main obstacle to maintaining the biodiversity is a vicious cycle whereby run-off from shifting agriculture in the forest deposits silt on coral reefs, putting further pressure on a fish stock already depleted by overfishing and coral reef destruction. This leads to a shortage of animal protein available to the islanders, prompting them to over-hunt forest vertebrates, which are already stressed from habitat destruction. Biodiversity conservation is complicated by the interplay of many factors outside the realm of biology, societal dynamics, including politics at many levels, decision-makers unschooled in conservation and limited collaboration between scientists and decision-makers. Therefore conservation practice needs to marry theory with pragmatism, eventually influencing the behavior, values, and decision-making of citizens and politicians alike (Reyers et al. 2010). Local and scientific knowledge can be integrated to provide a more comprehensive understanding of complex and dynamic socio-ecological systems. Only when relevant stakeholders are systematically represented can there be effective participation (Reed 2008). We investigated linking the conservation of flora and fauna with the livelihoods of the Banggai people, in particular possible trade offs and incentives that may encourage local participation and investment in conservation. This study was conducted with the ultimate objective of encouraging the creation of locally protected areas and is notable for taking place in one of the most isolated island communities in Indonesia.