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Engaging local communities in tackling illegal wildlife trade – experience in the SADC region


Illegal wildlife trade (IWT) is a recognised global challenge - both for conservation and development. It is critical that clear strategies are in place – nationally, regionally and internationally – to tackle poaching and wildlife trafficking. It is well recognised that there is no simple solution to tackling IWT. The different initiatives that have emerged have adopted multiple approaches. These can broadly be classified into three types:

  1. Increase law enforcement and strengthen criminal justice systems
  2. Reduce demand/consumption, and
  3. Support community engagement in conservation and sustainable wildlife management.

To date, most attention has been paid to the first two approaches, with relatively limited attention to the third strategy. Since 2014 – the date of the first intergovernmental conference on IWT (The London Conference), IUCN and IIED have been collaborating to raise awareness of the importance of engaging local communities. This includes the ‘Learning and Action Platform for Community Engagement against IWT’ (LeAP) project, funded by the UK Government’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund.

This online learning event, organised by IUCN and IIED, was intended to bring this experience to SADC, in support of the SADC Law Enforcement and Anti-Poaching Strategy (SADC LEAP) and the Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement.