Building capacity for pro-poor responses to wildlife crime in Uganda

International wildlife crime has moved to the top of the conservation and development agenda following the recent surge in illegal poaching and trafficking of wildlife. But calls for law enforcement to combat the involvement of criminal syndicates and militia risk alienating rural communities. How can responses be more pro-poor? This project aimed to build capacity for pro-poor responses in Uganda through learning more about the interactions between wildlife crime and poverty.

April 2014 - March 2017
Dilys Roe

Principal researcher and team leader (biodiversity), Natural Resources

UK contacts:

Dilys Roe ([email protected]), IIED

E.J. Milner-Gulland ([email protected]), ICCS

Uganda contacts:

Aggrey Rwetsiba ([email protected]), UWA

Andy Plumptre ([email protected]), WCS

The Kob population in Uganda is being depleted by poaching, pictured in Queen Elizabeth National Park (Photo: Roger Day Photography)

Wildlife crime has been identified as a key issue worldwide, with devastating consequences for both biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation. International wildlife crime can cause reduced security and a loss of critical resources for poor people and for national economic development.

In February 2014, the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference, held in London, brought together NGOs and world leaders from more than 40 nations to discuss solutions to the illegal wildlife trade, and concluded with the London Declaration.

Following the conference, world leaders met separately to consider the role of governments in tackling the illegal wildlife trade – the high level meeting summary and the London Declaration detail proposed action in three areas: law enforcement; demand reduction; and sustainable alternative livelihoods.

Crucially, responses to wildlife crime can have an adverse impact on the livelihoods of poor people. Wildlife crime takes many forms – from international organised crime to local level incursions into protected areas to collect resources for subsistence livelihood needs.

A focus on law enforcement risks disproportionally persecuting minor actors, and alienating poor people from accessing resources critical for their livelihoods and subsistence needs.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) are working closely together on these issues and acknowledge that more evidence is needed on the livelihood impacts of wildlife crime and its enforcement. For example, CITES Resolution 16.6 (2013) recognises the potential adverse impact of their CITES listings on the livelihoods of poor people, and in response encourages the involvement of rural communities in developing policy for wildlife crime.

What we did

This project contributed to CBD and CITES expressed concern for livelihoods by gathering empirical evidence that improves our understanding of the interactions between wildlife crime and poverty in Uganda.

Additionally, the project aimed to refocus attention – in a briefing, Dilys Roe, Simon Milledge and colleagues highlighted that the current emphasis on law enforcement and demand reduction neglects the role of effective incentives in achieving sustainable use for conservation and local development.

The ultimate project goal was to ensure that policy makers have the tools and capacity to understand the interactions between wildlife crime, biodiversity and poverty so they are more able to target interventions that are pro-poor and accrue long-term benefits for rural communities.

The project's outputs will be important beyond Uganda, providing relevant lessons internationally for those conservation managers, development practitioners and policy makers facing similar challenges to tackle the drivers of wildlife crime while improving the livelihoods of the rural poor.

In May 2016, a research workshop took place in Kampala, Uganda, at which a series of presentations were made on wildlife crime. These are available below and on IIED's SlideShare site.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) hosted a side event at the Conference of the Parties to CITES held in South Africa in autumn 2016. Its aim was to disseminate project findings to an international audience and for UWA Senior Management to take questions on their response to the research and plans for developing park-level action plans for tackling wildlife crime. Read the closing remarks from the Permanent Secretary of the Uganda Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities (PDF).

In April 2017, the final workshop took place in Kampala. The presentations are available below and on IIED's SlideShare site.

Research and knowledge gained from this project was used in a new project on 'Park action plans: increasing community engagement in tackling wildlife crime'.

Additional resources

Understanding complex drivers of wildlife crime to design effective conservation interventions, Henry Travers, Lucy J. Archer, Geoffrey Mwedde, Dilys Roe, Julia Baker, Andrew J. Plumptre, Aggrey Rwetsiba, E.J. Milner-​Gulland (2019), Conservation Biology Journal (not open access)


This project grant was aided by the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) Challenge Fund through UK Government funding. However, the views expressed are not necessarily the views of the UK Government.

The IWT is for projects around the world tackling illegal wildlife trade and supports action in three areas including developing sustainable livelihoods for communities affected by illegal wildlife trade.