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Background

Illegal wildlife trade (IWT) is a global conservation issue causing declines of many species of fauna and flora and threatening the livelihoods of people who depend on wildlife. Globally, the most common approach to tackling IWT is to enhance law enforcement, such as arming rangers and imposing heavy penalties on poachers. However, critics of this approach argue that efforts to reduce IWT in biodiversity hotspots are likely to fail without the involvement of Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLCs). Furthermore, top-down approaches often fail to account for underlying motivations behind poaching and can worsen people-park conflict. A key problem, however, is that there’s no blueprint approach to community-based approaches to tackling IWT and therefore a lack of knowledge by project designers and implementers on best practice.

Objective

The People not Poaching platform sought to address these issues by building the evidence base on the effectiveness of community-based approaches to tackling IWT. By collecting case studies from across the world, including many in the tropics, the purpose of the platform is to understand what does and doesn’t work, and why, in these approaches.

Methods

Using the 116 case studies on the People not Poaching platform, this research aims to analyse information on the effectiveness of community-based approaches to reducing IWT, including the reasons why initiatives have either been a success or a failure, and to pull together a series of lessons learned that illustrate best practice for those funding, designing and implementing future anti-IWT initiatives.

Results

The case studies offer a diverse insight into what makes a community-based anti-IWT initiative successful and provide many practical examples to illustrate this. Across case studies, common lessons learned include:


IPLC rights to manage and benefit from wildlife must be recognised.
Partnerships should be multi-level and multistakeholder and include locally led institutions.
Projects should respect and incorporate existing IPLC structures and norms rather than introducing new ones.
Grassroots approaches are often the most cost-effective, however there is a lack of focus from NGOs on how to identify and support these initiatives.


Implications

These lessons have implications for funders, designers and implementers of anti-IWT projects - which are often led by international NGOs or government agencies - by providing evidence of the need for IPLCs to be active partners in conservation efforts and to support locally-led approaches for successful outcomes for people and wildlife.

Keywords:

Illegal wildlife trade, IPLC, poaching, livelihoods

Olivia Wilson-Holt

Presentation within symposium:

S-38 Empowerment of IPLCs and Biocultural approaches to wildlife management and conservation: examples from Guyana

People not Poaching: Lesson learning from engaging communities in efforts to tackle illegal wildlife trade

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