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Kent conservationists call for radical change to ‘war on poaching’

Widespread extinction of highly endangered and valued species will occur without a radical change to the way the wildlife trade is being handled across the world, according to conservation scientists at the University of Kent.

In a paper titled: Protecting the most wanted wildlife species – why the ‘war on poaching’ is misguided and potentially disastrous, Professor Douglas Macmillan and Daniel Challender from the University’s Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), argue that certain species will all but disappear from the wild due to the current ineffective and expensive enforcement measures.

Speaking whilst the Conference of the Parties to CITES (Convention on International Trade in endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is taking place in Bangkok, Professor Douglas Macmillan said: ‘Our analysis indicates that global drivers of trade and domestic implementation issues surpass any actions taken to prevent trade at the national level and that radically alternative strategies are urgently required.

‘In a world where negotiation, collaboration and economic incentives are seen as enlightened approaches to managing conflict, it is imperative that conservationists work more positively with local stakeholders to develop strategies that will work, including local community engagement, market mechanisms and social marketing.’

The paper highlights how the decision to implement a trade ban reduces the complex social, cultural and economic nature of wildlife trade into a simple law enforcement problem.

Daniel Challender, a PhD student at DICE, said: ‘Aggressive enforcement measures are simply driving trade into the hands of powerful and highly organised crime syndicates. The development of organised criminality reflects the increased rewards available from poaching from inflated black market prices.

‘New approaches are needed that incentivise conservation at the local and national level in source countries and manage demand in consumer countries. In simples terms, wildlife populations are best protected if their values alive exceeds their value dead and this can be best achieved by developing approaches for the short and long term which reject current thinking that absolute trade bans are not the only appropriate response.’

Professor Macmillan concludes: ‘The adoption of radical new policies at the highest levels will require setting aside the traditional westernised perception and attitude toward wildlife poaching and use of wildlife products. The battle to save these highly endangered species must be fought on economic grounds not on imposed moral or ethical arguments, no matter how powerful the latter is in gaining publicity and funding in the west for conservation.’

The Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) is part of the University of Kent’s School of Anthropology and Conservation.



Contact: K.Scoggins@Kent.ac.uk

Story published at 11:47am 15 March 2013

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Last Updated: 23/05/2013