Community solutions are the key to tackling wildlife crime
A set of recommendations on engaging communities in combating the illegal wildlife trade (IWT) at the source has been issued by a group of more than 70 researchers, community representatives, government officials, UN agencies and NGOs from five continents.
The recommendations will be taken to the UN conventions on the international trade in endangered species (CITES) and on biological diversity (CBD). They will also be presented at the 2nd Inter-governmental Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in Botswana in March 2015.
- Recognising the central role of the communities that live close to wildlife in addressing and combating IWT
- Seeking to understand and respond to community rights, needs and priorities in designing anti-IWT initiatives
- Recognising the distinction between IWT and legitimate, sustainable use and trade of wild resources
- Supporting the devolution of wildlife access, management and stewardship rights to the lowest appropriate level, and
- Encouraging the development of partnerships between communities, conservation NGOs and law enforcement agencies in tackling IWT.
The recommendations were developed at an international symposium held in South Africa in February entitled 'Beyond enforcement: communities, governance, incentives and sustainable use in combating wildlife crime'. The main objective of the meeting was to explore how community-based interventions can be successful in combatting the illegal use and trade of wildlife.
The meeting featured case studies of frontline experiences across Africa, Latin America and Asia from communities at the sharp end of the illegal wildlife trade chain. Presentations also highlighted research on a diverse range of subjects, from the economics of the illegal wildlife trade to using criminology theory to understand the drivers of wildlife crime.
The South African Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, addressed the symposium. Delegates included government representatives from Austria, Botswana, Germany, Namibia, Tanzania, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The illegal wildlife trade is becoming ever more pervasive and increasingly impacting on human livelihoods and species conservation. In recent years it has grown more sophisticated and dangerous.
Despite the global attention on wildlife crime, international responses to date have largely focused on strengthening law enforcement efforts and reducing consumer demand for illegally sourced wildlife commodities.
The event organisers say more emphasis must now be placed on the role of indigenous and local communities. Their role should be included as an important issue in the context of wider discussions around sustainable development.
Wildlife can be an important asset for rural communities, providing a foundation for investment and economic development – for example through tourism or trade in forest products. Depletion of this asset as a result of illegal trade undermines this foundation, limiting options for local and national sustainable development.
Dr Rosie Cooney, chair of IUCN CEESP/SSC Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group, said: "Community-led approaches to combating wildlife crime are often overlooked in the international conversation on how to end wildlife crime and the outcomes from the symposium show that many of these approaches hold the key to truly finding a solution to this illicit trade."
Nick Ahlers, of TRAFFIC, said: "Engagement of communities is crucial for success in reducing poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. We are right now in the grip of a poaching crisis, with many countries currently in the process of implementing their National Ivory Action Plans, so the Beyond Enforcement symposium recommendations are incredibly timely and relevant."
Dr Dilys Roe, biodiversity team leader at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), said: "Approaches based on trust building, engagement and empowerment of communities, which enhance the social and economic benefits of conservation, are just as vital as enforcement to tackling wildlife crime. People should be able to profit from activities such as wildlife tourism and sustainable use while protecting species targeted by illegal trade."
Full group recommendations
Governments, international organisations, NGOs, development agencies, donors, and policy processes, when developing and implementing approaches to address IWT, should:
- Recognise the central role of the communities that live close to wildlife in addressing and combating IWT
- Seek to understand and respond to community rights, needs and priorities in designing anti-IWT initiatives
- Recognise the distinction between IWT and legitimate, sustainable use and trade of wild resources
- Recognise that forms of sustainable use that involve removing individual animals from a population have resulted in major conservation successes for some species that are currently the focus of IWT
- Support the devolution of wildlife access, management and stewardship rights to the lowest appropriate level
- Encourage the development of partnerships between communities, conservation NGOs and law enforcement agencies in tackling IWT
- Recognise the role of the private sector, and community-private sector partnership, in generating the benefits from wildlife that support community engagement in conservation
- Recognise the central role of benefit flows from wildlife and conservation in counteracting the incentives and generating the revenue to engage in IWT
- Recognise and support the value of trophy hunting as an important generator of benefits to counteract the incentives for poaching and IWT in many contexts
- Ensure enforcement efforts are sensitive to potential negative impacts on local communities and are accompanied by appropriate accountability mechanisms, and
- Apply sanctions that can undermine positive incentives for communities to work with governments in combating IWT.
Governments and international organisations should:
- Recognise, support and provide an enabling environment for the ability of communities to benefit from conservation and sustainable use of wildlife as a means to combat IWT.
Notes to editors
- The symposium programme was designed to respond to international commitments relating to the interaction between communities and IWT, in particular to the London Declaration
- The London Declaration was agreed at the 2014 London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, and has been signed by over 40 countries
- The new recommendations will help inform the discussion and the next steps to be taken on the sustainable livelihoods and economic development pillar of the London Declaration, and
- The full text of the London Declaration (PDF) is available online.
About the organisers
IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature is world's oldest and largest environmental network. IUCN is a democratic membership union with more than 1,000 government and NGO member organisations, and almost 11,000 volunteer scientists and experts in some 160 countries.
TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. TRAFFIC is a strategic alliance between IUCN and WWF.
CEED is the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions. CEED's research tackles key gaps in environmental decision making, monitoring and adaptive management.
The African Centre for Disaster Studies undertakes research and training with the aim of understanding and addressing the underlying drivers of disasters that impact the lives and livelihoods of people on the African continent. The issues of environmental security, sustainable natural resource use, community rights and governance are central to its work.
IIED is an independent, non-profit research institute. Set up in 1971 and based in London, IIED provides expertise and leadership in researching and achieving sustainable development.
The symposium was organised with support from GIZ and USAID.