The IUCN CEESP/SSC Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group (IUCN SULi) and Regional Programme for West and Central Africa (IUCN PACO), International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED), TRAFFIC – the wildlife trade monitoring network, and the Network for Environment and Sustainable Development in Africa (NESDA – Cameroon), are holding a regional workshop for West and Central Africa to explore how best to engage indigenous peoples and local communities that live close to wildlife in efforts to combat illegal wildlife trade.

This workshop is supported by the Austrian Ministry of the Environment and the German Polifund project, implemented by GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).

We are inviting potential participants to submit summaries of relevant analyses, case studies and experiences that they would be interested to present at the workshop.

Dates: 24th-25th February 2016

Venue: Close to Douala, Cameroon (exact venue TBC)


The objective of this meeting is to improve understanding and guidance on how indigenous peoples and local communities can be engaged as active partners in protecting wildlife against IWT, through collecting and examining regional experiences and case studies.

This regional workshop will build on an international symposium on this topic held in Muldersdrift, South Africa, in February 2015 (see which brought together experiences and case studies of different community engagement approaches. The Muldersdrift meeting highlighted the need for more focused regional exploration of the issues in order to contribute to an international effort toward raising awareness of and attention to the role of indigenous peoples and local communities in effective and just responses to IWT.


The countries of West and Central Africa.


We are seeking analyses, case studies, and experiences of efforts to involve indigenous peoples and local communities in tackling illegal wildlife trade. We are particularly interested in exploring approaches that have worked – and the underlying reasons for their success – and approaches that have not been found to be effective. We are also interested in case studies that document the impact on indigenous peoples and local communities of external efforts to control illegal wildlife trade (eg the impacts of private sector or government led anti-poaching patrols). The focus is on international illegal wildlife trade (ie wildlife trade that involves cross-border transactions), and NOT illegal use of wildlife for local subsistence use or trade (e.g. local bushmeat trade).

We would particularly like to encourage proposals for presentations from people who are members of Indigenous Peoples and Local communities affected by or engaged in tackling illegal international wildlife trade, or community support organisations; and from those with governmental (or inter-governmental) responsibilities or representing donor commitments for addressing wildlife crime.

We can offer funding to meet travel and accommodation costs for selected participants.

We are also interested in contact from people without specific analyses/examples to present, but with direct experience to share in discussion.

Proposals are invited on any aspect of the topic, but particularly in the following areas:

  • Impacts of enforcement on indigenous peoples and local communities: How are current enforcement strategies impacting on communities?
  • Understanding and quantifying the negative impact of wildlife crime on sustainable livelihoods and economic development: How is illegal wildlife trade impacting on indigenous peoples and local communities?
  • Engaging indigenous peoples and local communities in conservation: Where and how has strengthening community rights to manage and use or benefit from wild resources successfully reduced wildlife crime?
  • Involving indigenous peoples and local communities in law enforcement efforts: Where and how are communities actively engaging in enforcement efforts, and what factors underpin success?
  • Combating illegal wildlife hunting within indigenous peoples’ and local community hunting territories: How do communities deal with illegal hunting for IWT within their community managed hunting zones?

Please send a proposal for your presentation, of approx. 300 words, to by 15th January 2016, including the words “Call for Workshop Participation” in the title.


Globally, poaching and associated illegal wildlife trade (IWT) 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, IWT is a particular concern for elephants, timber, great apes, pangolins, birds, reptiles, and medicinal plants .

IWT is a major focus of current conservation concern and policy development, including through the African Elephant Summit (Botswana, November 2013), the EU Parliament Resolution on Wildlife Crime (January 2014) and the high-level Conferences on Illegal Wildlife Trade in London (February 2014) and in Kasane, Botswana (March 2015), and the International Conference on Illegal Exploitation and Illicit Trade in Wild Flora and Fauna in Africa (Brazzaville, Congo, April 2015). These conferences and policy statements, alongside several African sub-regional ones, have increasingly recognised the important role of the Indigenous Peoples and Local communities who live close to wildlife in addressing IWT (see Table below).


London Declaration Recognise the negative impact of illegal wildlife trade on sustainable livelihoods and economic development. This impact needs to be better understood and quantified
Increase capacity of local communities to pursue sustainable livelihood opportunities and eradicate poverty by (inter alia) promoting innovative partnerships for conserving wildlife through shared management responsibilities such as community conservancies, public‐private partnerships, sustainable tourism, revenue‐sharing agreements and other income sources such as sustainable agriculture
African Elephant Summit Engage communities living with elephants as active partners in their conservation by supporting community efforts to advance their rights and capacity to manage and benefit from wildlife and wilderness
Kasane Declaration Promote the retention of benefits from wildlife resources by local people where they have traditional and/or legal rights over these resources. We will strengthen policy and legislative frameworks needed to achieve this, reinforce the voice of local people as key stakeholders and implement measures which balance the need to tackle the illegal wildlife trade with the needs of communities, including the sustainable use of wildlife.Support work done in countries to address the challenges that people, in particular rural populations, can face in living and coexisting with wildlife, with the goal of building conservation constituencies and promoting sustainable development.Establish, facilitate and support information-sharing mechanisms, within country, regionally, and internationally, designed with, for and targeted at local people and practitioners, to develop knowledge, expertise and best practice in practical experience of involving local people in managing wildlife resources, and in action to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.


Support work by countries and intergovernmental organisations, as well as nongovernmental organisations, that seeks to identify the situations where, and the mechanisms by which, actions at the local level, including with community groups, can reduce the illegal wildlife trade.


Brazzaville Declaration Encourage Member States to recognize the rights and increasing the participation of indigenous populations and local communities in planning, management, and use of wildlife resources, promoting sustainable and alternative livelihoods, and in building their capacities to fight against wildlife crime

However, despite this recognition, the emphasis to date in discussions and in implementation has been strongly on strengthening (government-led) law enforcement 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. Moreover, some recent commitments, such as the one stemming from the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Johannesburg Action Plan (2016-2018) do mention the need to combat IWT, but do not recognize the strong role of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

IWT has an enormous impact on indigenous peoples and local communities, 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 very negatively affected by heavy-handed, militarized 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). Most fundamentally, however, the long term survival of wildlife populations, and in particular the success of interventions to combat IWT, will depend to a large extent on engagement of the Indigenous Peoples and local communities who live with wildlife populations. Where the economic and social value of wildlife populations for local people is positive, they will be more motivated to support and engage in efforts to combat and manage poaching and illicit trade. But where local people do not play a role in wildlife management and where it generates no benefits, strong incentives for illegal use and trade are likely to exist. Even the most focused and well-resourced enforcement efforts (which few countries can afford or have the political will to implement) will struggle to effectively control wildlife crime in the face of strong incentives for complicity by local people.

There are examples from West and Central Africa of governance models that empower indigenous peoples and local communities to manage wildlife sustainably and generate social and economic benefits. In a number of cases, these approaches have been successful in reducing illegal wildlife use and trade- sometimes dramatically – and incentivising strong community engagement in enforcement efforts. However, there is a clear need to raise awareness of these examples, distil lessons learnt, and ensure this experience influences the ongoing international IWT policy debate and implementation of approaches.

Crucially, the potential of community-based approaches needs to be analysed in the context of contemporary challenges of increasing involvement of transnationally-organized criminal syndicates in IWT, rising profits from illicit trade, increased access to firearms by community members, worsening poverty in many areas, erosion of traditional rights and governance systems, rapid urbanisation and changing community value systems, and large-scale threats from climate change combined with progressive habitat erosion affecting subsistence agriculture.

Photo: Common reed frog (Hyperolius viridiflavus ssp. pantherinus)
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