The introduction to this set of papers highlights four challenges to the large-scale analysis of population growth at protected area edges in Africa and Latin America undertaken by George Wittemyer and colleagues in their 2008 paper published in Science. First, it raises questions about their sampling procedures, given national-level variation in systems of protected area designation and protected area estates. Second, it challenges the largely economic model of migration decisions that underlies their analysis. Third, it highlights the neglected variable of land tenure systems as a factor facilitating or impeding migration. Fourth, it points to the problematic politics of reducing human communities and polities to ‘populations’ subject to management from afar.