What is illegal wildlife trade?
By Jacob Phelps, lecturer in tropical environmental change and policy at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom.
My co-authors and I study and think about wildlife trade in a wide range of contexts, from the actions of wildlife harvesters imprisoned in Nepali jails, to orchid traders at Thai markets, to criminal groups poaching South African rhinos. In the context of global conservation, we call all of their activities “illegal wildlife trade.” Many policy debates treat illegal wildlife trade as a uniform problem, but in fact it represents a wide range of species, actors, and situations. Broad labels like “poacher,”“middleman,” and “criminal” obscure the specific circumstances and motivations of the people involved in different kinds of illegal wildlife trade.
In our work, we have been challenged by the lack of consistent terminology and analytical frameworks. To help researchers and practitioners think through these very different phenomena, we devised more descriptive categories for illegal trade activities, distinguishing, for example subsistence harvesters from commercial harvesters. We describe these roles in a review published this month in ESA’s Frontiers. As highlighted in this video, our review aims to begin a more structured dialogue about how we discuss, research and respond to illegal wildlife trade—in all its forms.
Jacob Phelps, Duan Biggs, Edward L Webb (2016) Tools and terms for understanding illegal wildlife trade. Front Ecol Environ 14(9):479–489, doi: 10.1002/fee.1325