The illegal wildlife trade, which has an estimated value of at least US$7 billion (£5.9 billion) and potentially as much as US$23 billion, is driving some of the most well known species on Earth – especially rhinos, elephants, tigers, lions and, more recently, pangolins – towards extinction.
Since 2008, law enforcement has played a considerably bigger role in tackling the illegal wildlife trade, thanks to the support of governments, private donors, conservation charities and businesses. The result is that counter-insurgency techniques, such as developing informant networks and contracting private security firms to train rangers in anti-poaching operations with military-grade weapons, have proliferated.
Meanwhile, many conservationists are turning to drones and other technologies to monitor species and enforce protective measures. This in turn creates new business for tech companies keen to build a green reputation.
Countries must find a way to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. But, as a researcher of the international politics of conservation, I believe that techniques and technologies more regularly deployed by law enforcement and security firms are not the answer.
The funding problem
Between 2002 and 2018, the US Fish and Wildlife…