Stanford Students Help Protect Endangered Species in Africa
May 2014, Volume 12-3

Editor’s Note (G. Damm): The comprehensive Stanford Report (March 2014) highlights some success stories, like the role of hunting in the resurgence of white rhino in South Africa, as well as the Community conservancies in Namibia, saying that “for the most part, [they are] functioning successfully. Significant wildlife recoveries have been observed and numbers of elephants and black rhinos have tripled since 1970s. According to WWF, the vigilance of conservancy members and other efforts have made rhino poaching almost non-existent in Namibia. The economic benefits generated in the community conservancies provide the backbone for the success” and with respect to Tanzania that “WMAs have produced some positive results”, but it stops short of mentioning under the heading “Community Participation – Economic Benefit” that trophy hunting has been a major driver for the economic success in areas which are commonly described as being “unattractive for the ‘normal’ tourist”.

African Indaba will make sure that the authors of the report will receive relevant information on how hunting contributes to the key criteria for successful community-based conservation models: (1) community participation; (2) economic benefit; (3) damage compensation; and (4) transparency and accountability. In this connection, it may well be worthwhile to replace the phrase “community-based sustainable wildlife protection” as used in the report with “community-based sustainable wildlife conservation” – for the simple reason that economic benefits – especially in all these parts of Africa, which are unappealing to the average tourist for a variety of reasons – need the incorporation regulated sustainable use. Incentive-Driven-Conservation as advocated by the CIC will create a win-win situation for rural communities and wildlife.

A winter quarter student practicum led by David J. Hayes, a visiting distinguished lecturer at the Stanford Law School, who has been chosen by President Obama to serve as vice chair of an advisory council on saving endangered wildlife produced recommendations that will help the Obama administration implement a new approach. The 69-page document covers a range of issues, from the history of wildlife trafficking to legal tools to combat it. The problem is serious. Armed gangs, organized by sophisticated criminal syndicates, slaughtered more than 30,000 elephants and 1,000 rhinos in Africa last year alone, according to Hayes and his students in an interdisciplinary Law and Policy Lab practicum titled Wildlife Trafficking: Stopping the Scourge. As Hayes described it, the president’s National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking lays out a comprehensive plan to stop the killings that are destabilizing governments, financing terrorists and threatening the existence of some of the world’s most iconic wildlife species.

Examples of their recommendations include tightening up the U.S. ban on the commercial ivory trade, increasing the fines and penalties under U.S. law for wildlife trafficking, and using money-laundering enforcement tools to target traffickers. Other suggestions call for stepping up global collaborations and establishing an “African hub” to oversee anti-trafficking efforts.

Hayes said the students – who came from diverse graduate and professional programs, though mostly law – offered up incisive analytical and historical analyses that helped frame the recommendations in the strongest possible terms. “We learned in the late 1980s and early 1990s,” he said, “that when the world steps in and says, ‘Stop the killing,’ that people actually do listen, loopholes are closed and laws are enforced. Well, here we are again.”

One answer is to offer alternative economic incentives to African communities in lieu of wildlife trafficking. The challenge is three-fold, Hayes said. One, the endangered animal killings in Africa must be stopped and other activities – such as tourism – be encouraged as economic incentives. Two, the criminal syndicates must be discouraged from pursuing wildlife trafficking profits in Asia and the West. Finally, consumer demand in Asia and the West for these products must be restrained. As for the next step, the advisory council is scheduled to hold a June meeting and then another meeting in October to coordinate with the White House on the implementation of the new strategy, which was announced in February.

Author: Gerhard Damm (compiled from a report in Stanford News dated 1 April 2014)