There is no dressing up the fact that the severity of the wildlife poaching crisis has long-since reached the point of disaster.
TRAFFIC's assessments continue to expose catastrophic levels of wildlife poaching and illegal trade; threatening the sustainable development of some of the world's most marginalised communities and contributing to the unprecedented collapse of global biodiversity. New and enhanced approaches are necessary if the world is to ever reduce and reverse the global impacts of wildlife crime.
TRAFFIC interviewed 73 convicted wildlife offenders in 25 South African prisons to gain a nuanced understanding of their motivations and develop targeted interventions. Here's what they had to say:
or watch our documentary below
Severe inequality, a lack of employment alternatives, social injustice, and corruption are just some of the reasons way people are drawn into a life of crime.
Glamorisation, greed, peer pressure, ignorance of the law, and a skewed perception of risk, were all additional factors. Until these motivations are removed, wildlife poaching will continue.
I just wanted to send my first-born child to school so that he could get education and be different from me. I wanted him to have the opportunity which I was denied as a child.INTERVIEWEE #24
I will never forget what one man told me once: "You can never be filthy rich without getting your hands a little dirty". Even in our government, you find a man winning a tender for some big contract and he is not even qualified to do the job, but he has the right connections, he has friends in the right places. That’s just how it works.INTERVIEWEE #75
A global approach is necessary if lasting change is ever going to come.
This covers traditional regulatory changes, community-interventions, social initiatives, and high-level enforcement efforts.
There needs to be a concerted effort placed on investigating, arresting and prosecuting those individuals that occupy the higher levels of the illicit wildlife trade in South Africa. Such as those:
of poachers and transporters
• SUPPLYING INTERMEDIARIES
those in charge of exporting wildlife commodities to their international counterparts
Investigations into high-level wildlife offenders need to be adequately resourced and incentivised by providing both human and technical capacity. Investigations need to include sufficient intelligence gathering, including:
• GATHERING INFORMATION from arrested and prosecuted offenders
• TELECOMS ANALYSIS
• FINANCIAL INVESTIGATIONS
• ANTI-CORRUPTION INVESTIGATIONS
between governments and private sector
Many of these aspects have been outlined by the National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking (NISCWT) (NISCWT, 2017). There is an urgent need for this strategy to be approved and implemented by the South African government.
It is crucial that the provision of public services are extended urgently to the communities most at risk of being exploited by criminal syndicates for illicit wildlife trade:
HEALTH CARE •
QUALITY EDUCATION •
EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY •
FOOD SECURITY •
(such as electricity, water, sanitation, transport and telecommunications
The provision of these services should include the active involvement of communities as the change agents rather than communities simply being the passive receiver of these services. These services may result in communities being more resistant against opportunities of crime and will assist in improving individuals’ perception of the legitimacy of the authorities.
In 2012, South Africa adopted the National Development Plan (NPC, 2012) which is a long-term vision and plan that serves as a blueprint for the work that needs to be done to achieve a prosperous society for South Africa by 2030. The core priorities of the NDP are to:
• REDUCE POVERTY
• REDUCE UNEMPLOYMENT
• REDUCE INEQUALITY
It is essential that effective implementaiton of these policies is prioritised across government departments.
Engaging communities as equal partners in combating illegal wildlife trade is essential.
Various community-based interventions exist in South Africa, such as the Black Mambas (Black Mambas Anti-Poaching Unit, 2013) and others under the People and Parks programme (Department of Environmental Affairs, 2019), and elsewhere globally including First Line of Defence (IUCN, 2020a) and Beyond Enforcement (IUCN, 2020b) that seek to strengthen community action against IWT while simultaneously reducing community support for IWT. These initiatives may include:
1 WILDLIFE STEWARDSHIP
Such as employing communities in forest management responsibilities, wildlife protection services, or the sustainable harvesting of non-timber forest products.
2 SUPPORTING LIVELIHOODS UNRELATED TO WILDLIFE
3 DECREASING THE COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH HUMAN-WILDLIFE CONFLICT
Subsidizing community losses from damage to agricultural services and products, or loss of livestock.
4 INCREASING THE CONSEQUENCES OF PARTICIPATING IN IWT
Through increased enforcement, penalties, conviction rates.
5 PROVISION OF EDUCATION
And awareness-raising of wildlife-related law, and economic and employment pathways.
In order to deter individuals from potentially falling victim to engagement in an illegal wildlife activity, personal experiences of previous offenders such as those shown here should be publicised. An emphasis should be placed on:
1 PERSONAL AND FAMILIAL CONSEQUENCES
The sharing of the often-unreported personal consequences on offenders and their families could be better placed at deterring individuals as opposed to simply raising awareness about the legal or environmental consequences of their potential actions.
2 EQUIP INDIVIDUALS WITH TOOLS AND KNOWLEDGE TO RESIST
Pressure from peers and friends is a key driver for involvement in wildlife crime. Equipping individuals with the ability and insight to decline opportunities for crime placed upon them by their peers or recruiters may assist in helping individuals successfully to avoid engagement in IWT. These interventions could be done through a variety of means including radio or television narratives, the use of storytelling through paroles or previous offenders who have completed their imprisonment sentences, and other interactive activities.
Collaboration, training, and engagement between governments, NGOs, and community organisations is key to the success of influencing lasting change.
TRAFFIC is organising a range of upcoming events and initiatives to drive forward our recommendations for interventions. We will be posting news and updates here shortly.
The People Beyond the Poaching report, film, events, and associated materials were undertaken through TRAFFIC's Reducing Trade Threats to Africa's Wild Species and Ecosystems (ReTTA) project, generously funded by Arcadia - a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.
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