Wildlife crime is the fifth largest international criminal activity worldwide. Wildlife and timber poaching is becoming increasingly organised, increasingly global and more ruthless. Protected areas are suffering most acutely from this crime wave. They frequently contain the richest biodiversity and many species valued by poachers are now virtually or completely confined to protected areas. Managers, rangers and their families are intimidated, attacked and killed. Local communities suffer threats, disturbance and loss of natural resources from community reserves. Protected areas are further exposed in many countries by weak judicial processes that fail to prosecute wildlife traders even if they are caught. These developments signal the need for long-term changes in management in protected areas containing species sought by wildlife traders; more emphasis on patrolling and enforcement along with efforts to address corruption, strengthen the judiciary and improve enforcement along the rest of the trade chain.
Many of these changes are unwelcome in institutions that have spent decades developing softer approaches to management. Addressing wildlife crime without losing the benefits of more transparent, consultative and participatory approaches is a challenge that requires concerted efforts by all those affected.
Authors: Nigel Dudley, Sue Stolton and Wendy Elliott