Local communities: the overlooked first line of defence for wildlife
The long-term survival of wildlife, and in particular the success of efforts to combat the illegal wildlife trade (IWT) in high-value commodities such as elephant ivory and rhino horn, depends to a large extent on the willing support of local communities living alongside it. But communities themselves are rarely consulted on what they think about IWT and how best to tackle it. The First Line of Defence (FLoD) initiative is an approach that directly engages with the communities that are targeted by IWT projects, seeking to understand and give voice to their perspectives. Critically, the initiative explores the extent to which communities align (or not) with the perspectives of those who design and implement IWT projects and those who set policy. Early experiences have highlighted the critical insights that communities can provide, and how these insights can help improve the future design and focus of initiatives and policies to protect species from the IWT.