Wednesday, 28 September 2016

It's not all about tigers and criminals: Illegal wildlife trade responses need nuance

Date: September 22, 2016

Source: Lancaster University

Responses to illegal wildlife trade need to be more nuanced and not only focused on high-profile species if we are to truly tackle the problem, say researchers.

Across the globe, the illegal wildlife trade threatens thousands of species, including fish, fungi and plants, along with the more familiar 'charismatic' animals such as tigers, rhinoceroses and elephants.

Despite widespread recognition of the problem, science and policy has concentrated on a few high-profile species.

A Lancaster University-led study, published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, argues there is a need to recognize the diversity of products -- from medicinal plants to elephant tusks -- as well as the complex and diverse networks of people involved in the trade. It provides some of the terms and tools that policy makers and researchers need to better making these distinctions.

The international research team reviewed trade across species and regions, highlighting seven examples where more detailed analyses of illegal trade revealed diverse potential solutions. These ranged from education targeting gardeners who unintentionally buy rare orchids, to supporting legal trade in farmed rhino horn to reduce lucrative black market prices.

Bruno considers the collard peccary (Pecari tajucu) brought back by his uncle from a hunting trip, Arapiuns River, Brazil. In this reserve small-scale hunting for household consumption is legal, while hunting with dogs or for sale is illegal. Credit: Rachel Carmenta

Dr Jacob Phelps of the Lancaster Environment Centre led the study. He said: "For many species, our existing approaches to illegal trade are failing. We tend to discuss illegal wildlife trade as it were a single phenomenon, and seek to resolve it with the same types of interventions -- usually new laws that forbid trade.

"In fact, I would argue that trade in African ivory, rare Burmese turtles for pets and ‌South American peccaries for meat have comparatively little in common. We need better analyses to inform more tailored strategies for responding to each of these cases."

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