Community-Led Solutions: A Key Force In Tackling Wildlife Crime
April 2015, Volume 13-2

As a result of the symposium Beyond enforcement: Communities, governance, incentives and sustainable use in combating wildlife crime a group of more than 70 researchers, community representatives, government officials from Austria, Botswana, Germany, Namibia, Tanzania, the UK and US, UN agencies and NGOs from 5 continents issued recommendations on engaging communities to combat illegal wildlife trade (IWT) and protect key species. The recommendations were presented at the Kasane Summit and will be taken to CITES and CBD.

“Community-led approaches to combating wildlife crime are often overlooked in the international conversation on how to end wildlife crime,” said Dr Rosie Cooney, Chair, IUCN CEESP/SSC Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group. “The outcomes from the symposium show that many of these approaches hold the key to truly finding a solution to this illicit trade.”

Case studies of frontline experiences across Africa, Latin America and Asia from communities were shared, as well as innovative research on a diverse range of subjects from the economics of the illegal wildlife trade, to using criminology theory to understand what drivers trigger wildlife crime.

“Engagement of communities is crucial for success in reducing poaching and illegal wildlife trade,” said Nick Ahlers of TRAFFIC. “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 symposium recommendations are incredibly timely and relevant.”

The illegal wildlife trade is becoming ever more pervasive and increasingly impacting human livelihoods and species conservation. The international responses to date have largely focused on strengthening law enforcement efforts and reducing consumer demand. Much more emphasis must now be placed on the role of indigenous and local communities, and this needs to be included as an important issue in the wider discussions around sustainable development.

Wildlife can be an important asset for rural communities, providing a foundation for investment and economic development. “People should be able to profit from activities such as wildlife tourism and sustainable use while protecting species targeted by illegal trade” said Dr Dilys Roe, from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

Crucial learning’s from the symposium for creating an inclusive approach will be shared with other sectors outside the conservation world that could benefit from successful community approaches to tackling poaching. The following recommendations are made to governments, international organizations, NGOs, overseas development agencies, donors, and multilateral policy processes, when developing and implementing approaches to address IWT.

Support community rights and responsibilities through (i) recognizing that IWT is a development as well as a conservation issue; (ii) recognizing the central role of the communities that live close to wildlife in addressing and combating IWT; (iii) seeking to understand, respect and respond to community rights, needs and priorities in designing initiatives to combat IWT; (iv) recognizing the distinction between IWT and legitimate, sustainable use and trade of wild resources; (v) ensuring enforcement efforts are sensitive to potential negative impacts on local communities and are accompanied by appropriate accountability mechanisms; (vi) recognizing, supporting and providing an enabling environment for communities to be involved in wildlife governance and derive benefits from its conservation and sustainable use.

Strengthen community voices through (i) supporting a mechanism for communities affected by IWT to learn from each other and to have their voices heard in national and international policy fora; and (ii) strengthening their ability to be involved in decision-making surrounding action to combat IWT, including use and management of wildlife, and to derive benefits from conserving wildlife.

Strengthen partnerships through (i) encouraging the development of partnerships between communities, conservation NGOs and law enforcement agencies in tackling IWT; and (ii) recognizing the role of the private sector in generating the benefits from wildlife that support community engagement in conservation.

Strengthen the evidence base through (i) building knowledge and understanding about the motivations for, drivers of, dynamics of, and responses to, IWT.

Source: IUCN CEESP/SSC Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group Press Release (edited for space)