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Keywords:

  • CITES;
  • community conservation;
  • demand reduction;
  • enforcement;
  • high-value wildlife;
  • regulation;
  • wildlife trade

Abstract

Today record levels of funding are being invested in enforcement and antipoaching measures to tackle the “war on poaching,” but many species are on the path to extinction. In our view, intensifying enforcement effort is crucial, but will ultimately prove an inadequate long-term strategy with which to conserve high-value species. This is because: regulatory approaches are being overwhelmed by the drivers of poaching and trade, financial incentives for poaching are increasing due to rising prices and growing relative poverty between areas of supply and centers of demand, and aggressive enforcement of trade controls, in particular bans, can increase profits and lead to the involvement of organized criminals with the capacity to operate even under increased enforcement effort. With prices for high-value wildlife rising, we argue that interventions need to go beyond regulation and that new and bold strategies are needed urgently. In the immediate future, we should incentivize and build capacity within local communities to conserve wildlife. In the medium term, we should drive prices down by reexamining sustainable off-take mechanisms such as regulated trade, ranching and wildlife farming, using economic levers such as taxation to fund conservation efforts, and in the long-term reduce demand through social marketing programs.