The wildlife trade affects thousands of species and contributes billions of dollars a year to the global economy. Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT), in particular, is big business – Prince William’s initiative with United for Wildlife seeks to tackle IWT globally, and the UK government has just announced £5 million to redress it. A review of this subject by Dutton et al. can be found in Key Topics in Conservation, Vol 2, 2013.
Our work has addressed a range of issues associated with both the legal (but often unsustainable) and illegal trade in wildlife, from case studies on clouded leopards and star tortoises, to general issues including (amongst others) farmed or synthetic alternatives, the unintended consequences of a clampdown on the illegal trade in tiger parts in China, legislative and enforcement problems associated with species’ names and outdated listings, and the animal welfare concerns associated with trade in live animals (not least, what to do with rescued and confiscated animals?). We work with collaborators at World Animal Protection (Neil d’Cruze, Head of Policy), TRAFFIC (David Newton), the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa (Dr Vivienne Williams), the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Prof. Youbing Zhou), Wildlife Enforcement in Yunnan Province, China (Prof. Zhao-min Zhou), and the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry in Indonesia (Iding Haidir). Our work involves global analyses of CITES trade records, systematic literature reviews, and analysis of local customs and law enforcement data, as well as social and market surveys.
For example, in China, a survey of 600 middle-class Chinese citizens revealed that whilst exploitation or poaching of protected wildlife is highly illegal, many wealthy and influential people legally own extensive collections of wildlife items, and, in Chinese culture, there seems to be no perceived moral dilemma in owning (e.g. ivory) or consuming (e.g. pangolin scales) luxury wildlife products. An emerging “fashion” is to own exotic birds or turtles – protected under CITES Appendices I and II – as household pets; ornaments such as those crafted from helmeted hornbill skulls are also becoming increasingly popular. China has committed to phasing out its legal, domestic ivory industry, and imposed a one-year embargo on imports of African ivory carvings acquired after CITES took effect. All this is good, but so long as private ownership remains a legal loophole, consumer demand will continue to drive IWT in China, limiting the effectiveness of protective measures.
Please click on the links below for more information.
Animal welfare in the wildlife trade
Global trade in exotic pets
Pangolins – poaching, trafficking and publicity
The impact of bear bile farming on conservation of wild bears