The Search For New Solutions

Day 2. My report from the Wildlife Trade Conference in The Hague.

Today was all about Working Groups. Demand-reduction; Tourism; Governance; Technology; The Financial Sector; and Sustainable Livelihoods.

The idea was that each Working Group would seek to identify new opportunities and possible Wildlife Deals. I’ll report on the two I attended.

The Financial Sector meeting was fascinating. Trying to understand how we can choke off the ability of the criminal networks involved in wildlife crime to launder and ‘legitimize’ the proceeds of their heinous acts, drew on the experience of efforts to deal with drugs, illegal arms and money laundering.

Clearly there is a fine balance to be struck between the rights of individual citizens to privacy and the need to make life as difficult as possible for those who deal in death, destruction and despair.

I hope to be joining the international team looking into how the Financial Sector can play a leading role in international efforts to end wildlife trafficking.

The Technology Working Group was a little more predictable. Throughout my nearly 30 years’ experience in wildlife trade, we have often been presented with the latest high-tech ideas designed to defeat the poachers. In the last few years, many have pinned their hopes on the use of drones, or unmanned flying vehicles. However, closer examination reveals that limited range, relatively short flying time, fragility and the inability to repair a machine that goes wrong, suggests that drones may only have very limited application in the field. The presentations at this Conference focused on the use of forensic science (think CSI) which certainly makes sense; the development of a dedicated data-gathering App for use in the field (again, makes sense); and using the wild animals themselves and specific changes in their behaviour to trigger human intervention.

I am all for effective technology. I prefer it to be low tech. I am concerned that any new ideas must take account of the fact that many wildlife law enforcement agencies do not necessarily have the resources to respond to a call to action, triggered remotely by a transmitter in the middle of nowhere. The countries where I have worked have huge resource challenges and simply do not have squads of armed Rangers in Land Rovers or airplanes on standby, 24/7, to leap into action in response to what might well prove to be a false alarm.

So, no ‘silver bullet’ answer to the illegal wildlife trade but overall a very worthwhile fresh look at new ideas, many of which could make a real difference.

Thursday 3rd March is World Wildlife Day, a subject I have covered in previous blogs. If you are reading this on WWD2016 itself and have yet to take action, then please try to find the time to do something for wildlife – no matter how large and small. You’ll be glad you did because it shows that, together, we can make this a better world, one animal at a time!

Look out for more news on my Twitter feed @willtravers

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