Giving Compass' Take:

• Vanda Felbab-Brown analyzes the impacts of policies intended to prevent poaching and wildlife trafficking, highlighting the dearth of proven methods. 

• How can funders work to clarify effective strategies and help to implement them? How do cultural context influence which policies are most effective? 

• Learn about an advocacy effort to implement conservation policy

Over the past decade, poaching and wildlife trafficking have devastated wildlife populations around the world. Environmental threats, such as climate change, deforestation and other forms of habitat destruction, have also had a large-scale impact on ecosystems. Given the combined effect of these threats, poaching and wildlife trafficking – not to mention badly managed legal trade in wildlife – have the potential to drive species to extinction.

I assess the effectiveness of five policy tools:

  • bans on legal trade and increased law enforcement;
  • permitting legal trade through managed hunting and farming of animals;
  • involving local communities (through alternative livelihood efforts or community-based natural resource management approaches);
  • anti-money-laundering efforts; and
  • strategies for demand reduction.

The biggest challenge is that each of these five policy tools comes with severe limitations and downsides.

For each conservation school of thought and each policy tool, there are as many failures as successes – in fact, often more failures. This means that policy effectiveness is highly context-specific, and local cultural and institutional settings, as well as species’ characteristics, influence policy effectiveness.

The conservation community does not yet know which policy school of thought works consistently better and under which particular circumstances.

Read the full article on countering poaching and wildlife trafficking by Vanda Felbab-Brown at Brookings.