Wildlife crime seminar

Poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife products is a major conservation challenge of the 21st century. Many scientists and conservationists are using their expertise to understand and tackle this complicated problem. On the 24th of August, the Future For Nature Academy joined forces with dr. Andrew Lemieux of the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR) and together organized a Wildlife crime seminar “From source to market”.

When we think of poaching or wildlife crimes, many of us probably think of poached rhinos, elephants, or tigers. However, the illegal killing of plants and animals in the wild is only one stage of a whole poaching-chain: the animal products also need to be transported or smuggled outside of the source country, and will be eventually finally be sold to a consumer. All these different stages are equally important and the better we understand how each stage works, who is involved etc., the better we are able to design prevention strategies. During the seminar the whole ‘chain’ of wildlife crime was discussed, including poaching in protected areas, transportation to markets and consumption by end-users. For example, we learned about the patterns in bushmeat poaching, about trade networks from Africa to Europe, but also about consumption in China.

Nine different experts shared their stories with the audience in the morning and afternoon. Each of the expert focused on one or more stages of the whole ‘chain of poaching’. The experts were not only researchers and academics, but also practitioners from governmental agencies. It was very interesting to see how the different Dutch agencies and organizations operate and work together. According to some of the experts, the Netherlands play quite an important role as a transit country in the illegal wildlife trade. We also discussed some less obvious, but hugely important topics such as wildlife laundering through breeding farms, and the enforcement at customs.

In between talks there was room for some questions, but the main discussion was at the very end. All the experts formed a panel to which the audience could ask follow up questions, discuss certain topics, and identify research gaps on which students could focus. Some of the key points that was highlighted was an interdisciplinary approach to better understand the problem and students were encouraged to also look outside their own discipline. Other points that were mentioned was that we also lack basic biological information about the species in the wild. This is especially the case for the lesser-known  reptiles and amphibians species.

The students could approach the experts in an informal setting, but also the other participants to learn more about each other and their work. Perhaps, the greatest opportunity was that everyone was actively involved in identifying research opportunities where students could focus on! The seminar was a big success with many students, practitioners, and professionals from all over the Netherlands joining in.

By Nick