This collaborative venture is envisioned to be an evolving digital platform from which conservationists and criminologists may unite to promote a more scientific approach to conservation law enforcement.
We aim to provide regular blog-style content to explore conservation crime problems, promote more sophisticated law enforcement techniques, and build interest and awareness for field-wide innovation.
We join in this endeavor for several reasons.
First, the perceived challenges facing conservation law enforcement are staggering. For instance, a recent rapid assessment conducted for UNEP and INTERPOL estimates that the illegal use of wildlife accounts for between US$ 91-259 billion annually. And worse still, illegal activities greatly threaten the world’s biodiversity. Among the many endangered species threatened by poaching are the black rhino, the vaquita, and the Asian elephant. Meanwhile, as many as two in three UNESCO natural world heritage sites are threatened by illegal exploitation, ranging from Madagascar’s Atsinanana rainforests to Thailand’s Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex.
Second, the conservation field is not yet adequately trained, equipped, or funded to tackle law enforcement problems. Understandably, the field is primarily led by natural scientists, yet effective law enforcement requires knowledge, if not also careful study, of human behavior in relation to laws. Even in the world’s top conservation graduate programs, the theory and practice of law enforcement is rarely discussed, let alone made the subject of formal coursework. Similarly, conservation donors and even management agencies need to evolve in their thinking and strategic objectives if we are to close the "enforcement gap."
Third, and finally, decades of scientific study and practice of “mainstream” law enforcement has revealed a great many techniques and tools that might be applied and evaluated in conservation. This includes the adoption of proactive practices within law enforcement agencies and the design of interventions using situational crime prevention frameworks, as well as more traditional practices like having informant programs to inform enforcement actions.
The threat of conservation crimes to planetary conservation suggest that the professional field must continue to evolve by approaching enforcement scientifically. The monitoring of wildlife and natural resources, as well as advocacy for science-based laws remain indispensable, but the importance of such work is moot if appropriate laws are never properly implemented.
We very much look forward to the journey ahead. If you are a conservation professional, policymaker, student, or concerned global citizen, we hope you will join us.
Header Photo Credit: Getty Images, via SquareSpace.com