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Local Communities: First Line of Defence against Illegal Wildlife Trade

June 3, 2019

Engaging communities as partners in combatting illegal wildlife trade (IWT) is increasingly recognized as critical, but has proven difficult to operationalise in a meaningful and sustainable manner. While there is increasing recognition among practitioners and policy makers of the need to engage rural communities that neighbour or live with wildlife as key partners in tackling IWT, a clear framework to guide, monitor, and assess such action has been lacking. With some exceptions, the role of rural communities in combatting escalating IWT in high-value species and the conditions under which community engagement does and does not work have received little attention. This has hampered efforts to effectively partner with communities in the fight against wildlife crime. Reports of serious violations of human rights by heavy-handed law enforcement operations raise grave concerns about current practices.

Holly Dublin and Akshay Vishwanath presented on an innovative initiative - Local Communities: First Line of Defence against Illegal Wildlife Trade (FLoD). The FLoD initiative takes an action research approach to testing, investigating, comparing and contrasting the assumptions, perceptions, and logic flows of IWT project designers and target communities. The FLoD initiative takes advantage of an iterative learning process to help local communities, project designers and implementers at site and landscape levels to understand the context-specific motivations and assumptions that underpin the activities (legal and illegal) of local communities. Lessons learned serve as important guidance for policy-makers, practitioners and donors.

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