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Involving and supporting Indigenous peoples and local communities in the fight against wildlife trafficking is essential, yet often overlooked, writes Rosie Cooney, Chair of IUCN’s Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group, following a meeting held in Cameroon to address the issue.

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White rhinos near Lake Nakuru, Kenya – Globally, poaching and associated illegal wildlife trade is devastating populations of iconic wildlife species such as rhinos and elephants, as well as a host of lesser-known ones. Across West and Central Africa, wildlife crime is impacting elephants, timber, great apes, pangolins, birds, reptiles and medicinal plants.

However, despite high-level recognition of the problem, the emphasis in solutions to date has been largely on strengthening law enforcement efforts and reducing consumer demand for illicitly sourced wildlife commodities. Considerably less emphasis has been placed on the role of the Indigenous peoples and local communities who live with wildlife.

Yet illegal wildlife trade has an enormous impact on such people, who are affected by insecurity and the depletion of important livelihood and economic assets, while often being excluded from the benefits of conservation. They can also be impacted by heavy-handed, militarised responses to wildlife crime that frequently make little distinction between the illegal activities driven by large-scale profits – crimes of greed – versus those driven by poverty – crimes of need.

Food security
Human-wildlife conflict
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