In a paper published in Conservation Letters, researchers from the University of Kent's Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) argue that despite record levels of funding being invested in enforcement and anti-poaching measures, many species are already on the path of extinction and bold strategies are needed to protect them.
Co-authors Dan Challender and Professor Douglas MacMillan call for resources to be directed to a broader range of long-term conservation strategies, which go beyond regulation and intensifying enforcement effort, to conserve high-value species such as the African elephant, tiger and pangolins.
The paper also provides evidence that regulatory approaches are being overwhelmed by the drivers of poaching and trade, with enforcement of trade controls, including those agreed through CITES – the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species - attracting organised criminals who have the capacity to operate even under increased enforcement effort.
Dan Challender of DICE, Co-author of the paper, said: 'In the immediate future we should incentivise and build capacity within local communities to conserve wildlife. Current enforcement measures are proving unsuccessful and more needs to be done to bring local communities, which live in close proximity to the species on-board, by rewarding them for conserving wildlife. When their children are hungry and cannot afford to go to school then saving pangolins seems much less of a priority to them.'
Professor MacMillan adds: 'In the longer term we should look to establish legal and sustainable trade in many species threatened by poaching using tax revenues from such trade to fund species conservation efforts.
'We also need to take the pressure off wild populations by investing in supply approaches such as ranching and wildlife farming which could lower the incentive to poach. Likewise, we need to reduce demand through social marketing programmes, though further research into wildlife consumption is needed to inform such programmes.'