20 July 2024
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Understanding Wildlife Trafficking Resilience During COVID-19 Lockdowns

Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, as countries implemented strict lockdown measures to curb the spread of the virus, wildlife traffickers displayed remarkable resilience by continuing their illegal activities. This article delves into the methods and adaptability of wildlife traffickers during the lockdown period, shedding light on valuable lessons that can be learned from their operations.

Wildlife traffickers are known for their ability to adapt swiftly to changing circumstances. During the pandemic, they shifted their transportation methods from air cargo and commercial flights to more inconspicuous modes such as foot, bicycle, motorcycles, and even government vehicles. In a disturbing turn of events, some traffickers exploited the cover of funeral events by using hearses and caskets of COVID-19 victims to transport illegal wildlife products like ivory and rhino horns. Additionally, they embraced online platforms to create new digital marketplaces, enabling direct interactions with buyers and circumventing intermediaries.

Insights from Research on Wildlife Trafficking Resilience

Academics Annette Hübschle and Meredith Gore conducted extensive research on wildlife trafficking resilience during the COVID-19 lockdown, focusing on case studies in South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia. Through interviews with individuals involved in the illegal wildlife trade, law enforcement officers, NGO workers, and local community members, they gained valuable insights into the strategies employed by traffickers to navigate the challenges posed by the pandemic.

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The research highlighted the traffickers’ ability to diversify transport methods and routes, leveraging less monitored pathways to avoid detection. Their rapid adoption of online platforms enabled them to reach a broader audience and conduct discreet transactions despite travel restrictions. Moreover, stockpiling products during the lockdown allowed them to quickly resume trade activities once restrictions were lifted. By analyzing these adaptive strategies, researchers aimed to draw parallels between illegal and legal economies, offering valuable lessons for enhancing resilience in legal markets.

Expanding the Frictions and Flows Framework for Wildlife Trade

One of the key outcomes of the research was the expansion of the Frictions and Flows framework, initially developed to analyze illegal wildlife trade dynamics. This framework evolved to encompass both legal and illegal wildlife trade, providing a comprehensive understanding of market adaptations and innovations. By observing how traffickers navigate challenges and sustain their operations, researchers identified mechanisms that could be applied to bolster resilience in legal economies facing global crises.

The Frictions and Flows framework offers a roadmap for identifying critical points of vulnerability in supply chains, enabling the development of strategies to mitigate disruptions. For instance, in the face of extreme weather events or other shocks, legal economies can leverage this framework to diversify supply sources, enhance logistics networks, and maintain trade flows. This shift in perspective not only addresses immediate impacts but also prepares economies for long-term challenges, fostering a more resilient and adaptive approach to crisis management.

Implications for Policy and Conservation Efforts

The resilience displayed by wildlife traffickers during the pandemic underscores the challenges faced by law enforcement and regulatory agencies in combatting illegal wildlife trade. To effectively address these challenges, a holistic approach that involves diverse stakeholders and strengthened international cooperation is essential. Policymakers must recognize the broader impacts of wildlife trafficking, which extend beyond environmental degradation to undermine sustainable development investments and impact vulnerable communities.

Efforts to combat wildlife trafficking should consider the interconnectedness of environmental conservation, public health, and socioeconomic factors. By integrating health, environmental, and social policies, countries can develop robust systems to protect wildlife and support communities in times of crisis. Understanding the links between legal and illegal markets, and leveraging insights from the adaptability of traffickers, can inform strategies to build resilience and address complex environmental challenges effectively.

Links to additional Resources:

1. www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/wildlife-trafficking-continued-during-covid-lockdown 2. www.worldwildlife.org/stories/wildlife-trafficking-during-covid-19-lockdown 3. www.traffic.org/news/wildlife-trafficking-during-covid-19-lockdown-what-we-can-learn-from-their-resilience/

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Wildlife trafficking, COVID-19 pandemic, Illegal wildlife trade

Wildlife smuggling
Wildlife smuggling or wildlife trafficking concerns the illegal gathering and trade of endangered species and protected wildlife, including plants and byproducts or products utilizing a species. Research on wildlife smuggling has increased, however, knowledge of the illicit trade remains limited. The differences between international policies and tendencies likely contribute to...
Read more: Wildlife smuggling

COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic, also known as the coronavirus pandemic, is a global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The novel virus was first identified in an outbreak in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, China, in December 2019, before it spread to...
Read more: COVID-19 pandemic

Wildlife trade
Wildlife trade refers to the products that are derived from non-domesticated animals or plants usually extracted from their natural environment or raised under controlled conditions. It can involve the trade of living or dead individuals, tissues such as skins, bones or meat, or other products. Legal wildlife trade is regulated...
Read more: Wildlife trade

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