Share this article

A large number of anti-poaching, conservation and management measures have been implemented to protect rhinos. None of these responses has achieved tangible results in lowering unnatural rhino deaths through illegal hunting in southern Africa. The international donor community, conservation NGOs and governments have disbursed millions of dollars to fight this illegal wildlife trade, and continue to do so.

We argue in this report that these measures are bound to fail, as they do not engage with the most important change agents in conservation: local people who live in or near protected areas and game reserves.

The report therefore aims to provide a better understanding of why African rural communities participate in wildlife economies, both legal and illegal, and how alternative, community-oriented strategies can help build a more resilient response to organized wildlife crime than has hitherto been achieved.

This report explores the challenges of illegal wildlife trafficking – in particular as it affects rhinos – and the related opportunities for wildlife protection and conservation in southern Africa today. The African rhino species are used as an example because of the high-profile nature of the illegal rhino-horn trade and the existence of transnational criminal networks engaged in it.

But the report’s findings and the design principles for community interventions to tackle the illegal wildlife economy are generalizable beyond the rhino. Many other wildlife species and plants are also illegally trafficked across the globe. The pangolin, for example, is now considered the most trafficked animal species in the world, and cycads the most threatened plant species.

So, why should we be protecting wildlife and, more specifically, the rhino? And how could alternative interventions have an impact on illegal wildlife trafficking?



Ending wildlife trafficking - Local communities as change agents

Download PDF
Share this article


Annette Hübschle-Finch

Annette Hübschle-Finch is a senior researcher with the Global Initiative. She is currently undertaking a postdoctoral fellowship in the Law Faculty ay the University of Cape Town (UCT), under the auspices of the newly established Environmental Security Observatory (ESO). The ESO is a joint initiative of the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime and the Global Risk Governance Programme at UCT.

Before joining the Global Initiative, Annette worked towards her Ph.D. in economic sociology at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne. Her doctoral research project explored the structure and functioning of the illicit rhino horn economy. From 2002 to 2011, she was a senior researcher with the Organized Crime and Money Laundering Programme at the South African-based Institute for Security Studies. Her written research outputs relied heavily on fieldwork and networking with stakeholders from intergovernmental, regional, national and law enforcement entities, civil society and academia. Annette has also worked as a researcher, consultant, and practitioner on a variety of organized crime, environmental security and broader African security issues. She received her Bachelors in History and Political Studies, Honours degree in Comparative and International Political Studies and Masters degree in Criminal Justice, all from the University of Cape Town, and holds a doctorate from the University of Cologne, magna cum laude.

Her research interests include environmental security, the society/conservation nexus, organized crime and the structure of illegal markets with a specific interest in the interface of legality and illegality in markets.

Read more