Government can really only do one thing; tax and penalize. The other actions it takes, even positive ones like the police and fire departments and protecting the environment, derive from one of those two.
But when it comes to conservation, activists may be taking the wrong approach. While they pay lobbyists to get more laws and enforcement, when it comes to poaching, it just attracts organized criminals who have the capacity to operate even under increased enforcement effort. Funding is at record levels for enforcement and it isn't doing much good.
The smarter approach would be to reward local communities, who are often poor, for successful conservation. Right now, criminals contribute to the local economy while outsiders treat everyone like criminals. High-value species such as the African elephant, tiger and pangolins are not being helped in line with the taxpayer investment. CITES – the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species - is a great thing for the committee that wrote it, but it isn't doing much good.
In a paper published in Conservation Letters, researchers from the University of Kent's Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) argue that despite record levels of funding being invested in enforcement and anti-poaching measures, many species are already on the path of extinction and bold strategies are needed to protect them.
Co-authors Dan Challender and Professor Douglas MacMillan call for resources to be directed to a broader range of long-term conservation strategies, which go beyond regulation and intensifying enforcement effort, to conserve high-value species such as the African elephant, tiger and pangolins.
The paper also provides evidence that regulatory approaches are being overwhelmed by the drivers of poaching and trade, with enforcement of trade controls, including those agreed through CITES – the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species - attracting organised criminals who have the capacity to operate even under increased enforcement effort.
Dan Challender of University of Kent's Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, co-author of a new paper in
says, 'In the immediate future we should incentivize and build capacity within local communities to conserve wildlife. Current enforcement measures are proving unsuccessful and more needs to be done to bring local communities, which live in close proximity to the species on-board, by rewarding them for conserving wildlife. When their children are hungry and cannot afford to go to school then saving pangolins seems much less of a priority to them.'
Co-author Professor Douglas MacMillan, also of the University of Kent adds, 'In the longer term we should look to establish legal and sustainable trade in many species threatened by poaching using tax revenues from such trade to fund species conservation efforts.
'We also need to take the pressure off wild populations by investing in supply approaches such as ranching and wildlife farming which could lower the incentive to poach. Likewise, we need to reduce demand through social marketing programs, though further research into wildlife consumption is needed to inform such programs.'