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Professor Douglas Macmillan and PhD student Daniel Challender recently spoke at the CITES conference in Bangkok on their paper challenging current wildlife trade policies. They argued that addressing wildlife conservation from an economic standpoint, as opposed to the more common moral or ethical standpoint, is the key to reducing poaching and seeing measurable progress in the conservation of species that are heavily poached.

Aggressive conservation practices that are currently in place encourage illegal wildlife trade and distribution on the black market. Challender  said, “Aggressive enforcement measures are simply driving trade into the hands of powerful and highly organized crime syndicates.” He continued, “In simple terms, wildlife populations are best protected if their values alive exceeds their value dead…”

The focus, they conclude, should instead be on ensuring that wildlife is worth more alive than it is dead. The paper suggests implementing a trade ban to simplify issues surrounding wildlife trade and.

The authors concluded that without new conservation incentives, we could see widespread extinction of highly threatened species.

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The challenge, as the paper states, will be to maintain public interest and funding for wildlife conservation despite a marketing strategy that relies on economics instead of ethics. This issue demonstrates differences in the valuation of wildlife between cultures. In developed countries wildlife can be seen as a national treasure, and something worth preserving and protecting. However, in many under-developed countries, wildlife is a means of income, whether through hunting, illegal poaching and trade, or farming and domestication. Even between cultures in developed countries, though, opinions and values placed on wildlife can differ. Bison are viewed by some as a cultural icon, while others view bison as nuisance and a threat to their livelihood. This difference of opinion within cultures likely occurs in underdeveloped communities as well.

The main point I drew from this article is that placing a moral value on wildlife is not enough to ensure the conservation of a species. It does not prevent illegal trade or poaching, and it’s possible that these activities threaten the species even further, due to habitat destruction and harmful poaching methods. Instead of trying to win the battle with ethical pleas, we should be creating economic incentives to dissuade poachers from taking wildlife illegally, and to dissuade traders from purchasing poached wildlife. Further economic incentives could come in the form of reporting by locals of confirmed poaching instances, although the potential social implications of that would be another issue to consider altogether. Whatever the methods, it’s clear that we need to re-evaluate current wildlife trade prevention methods and update protocol so that endangered species are being better protected.

Link:

Conservationists Call for Radical Change to ‘war On Poaching’

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