IWT - illegal wildlife trade - is a key current conservation and development challenge. It threatens a wide range of wild species around the world while jeopardising local security and economies, undermining livelihood assets, and destabilising governance regimes.
Targeted species include familiar and iconic species such as elephants, rhinos, pangolins, and tigers, as well as many birds, reptiles, fish, primates and wild plants, which generally receive less attention.
It is important to note that globally, most wildlife trade is legal, and much is sustainable. Some are key elements and strategies in conservation programmes for species or habitats. However, illegal wildlife trade is by its nature unmanaged, frequently highly exploitative, unsustainable and detrimental.
IWT is one of the fastest growing black-market industries and is estimated to be worth USD $8-21 billion annually. It is driven by a huge – and in many cases growing – demand for wildlife products, for uses such as traditional medicines, collectibles, pets, clothing, and as investment items. In some cases, it involves organised criminal syndicates that are also engaged in other illegal trades such as weapons and drugs, although at local levels it is often members of local rural communities who are involved in poaching.
Anti-IWT approach and challenges
In recent years global policy and funding responses to tackle poaching and thwart IWT have relied heavily on state-led (and increasingly privately-led) approaches to law enforcement. However, it is clear that these methods are not enough on their own, and can even make the situation worse, especially when the people who live alongside and/or with these species are side-lined. It is also clear that in a number of cases, heavy-handed or misdirected enforcement efforts have led to human rights abuses and severe hardship for already vulnerable indigenous peoples and local communities.
Today, there is growing recognition among practitioners and policy-makers that support for and the inclusion of local communities as key partners in initiatives aimed at fighting wildlife crime is vital.
However, to date efforts to effectively support or include local communities in anti-IWT initiatives have been patchy and with variable impact.
A key challenge for these efforts is the very limited level of understanding and guidance available for organisations and communities seeking to implement such initiatives. Crucially, communities themselves lack a voice in these discussions and efforts are rarely made to consult them when policies or programs are being developed. As a consequence, policies and programmes often do not reflect their priorities and views and anti-poaching initiatives will be less effective - or not effective at all - because of it.
The People Not Poaching: the Communities & IWT Learning Platform seeks to redress this.
How is the IWT Learning Platform achieving this?
- identifies and profiles examples of community-based initiatives being used to combat poaching and the IWT
- provides an interactive portal for people involved in community action against poaching to actively share information and explore the key ingredients for success
- enables development guidance on best practice in supporting community-based efforts to tackle IWT so that such efforts can be scaled up, with benefits to both wildlife and local communities; and
- highlights experiences and viewpoints from communities so that they may influence decision-making and design of anti-IWT initiatives.