Towards effective global wildlife trade policy

Research Overview/Outline of research:

Key international policy decisions concerning wildlife trade are characterised by high levels of uncertainty and speculation. The result is poorly designed policies and conservation interventions that are badly planned and weakly evaluated, if at all. This is epitomised in CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the primary instrument for ensuring sustainability in international wildlife trade. In CITES, governments and observer organisations deliberate on decisions with radical implications for species in trade (e.g., whether to establish trade bans and other trade controls), but which are characterised by inherent uncertainty. This research will provide novel insights to inform changes to global policymaking processes by (1) linking theory to practice in CITES, and (2) convening polarised stakeholders to guide policy decisions for high-valued traded species, focusing on rhinos and pangolins.

Objectives/Summary of planned activities:

The specific research objectives of this project comprise the following:

  1. Evaluate the extent to which social-ecological factors have been considered in decisions to amend the CITES Appendices in the last 22 years.
  2. Develop an evidence-based theory of change to identify the conditions under which amendments to the CITES Appendices would be likely to contribute to improving the status of species.
  3. Convene disparate stakeholders to guide policy directions for high-value traded species. This research will apply participatory scenario planning techniques to two species groups, rhinos and pangolins.
  4. Propose reforms to CITES to ensure a robust evidence base underpins future decision-making and policy development