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Supplying the wildlife trade as a livelihood strategy in a biodiversity hotspot

Janine E. Robinson, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent
Richard A. Griffiths, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent
Iain M. Fraser, School of Economics, University of Kent; Department of Economics and Finance, La Trobe University
Jessica Raharimalala, Madagasikara Voakajy
David L. Roberts, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent
Freya A. V. St. John, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent; School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography, Bangor University

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-09821-230113

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Abstract

Much of the global wildlife trade is sourced from biodiversity-rich developing countries. These often have high levels of poverty and habitat loss, particularly in rural areas where many depend on natural resources. However, wildlife collection may incentivize local people to conserve habitats that support their livelihoods. Here we examined the contribution of the commercial collection of live animals to rural livelihoods in Madagascar, one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots. Using questionnaires, we investigated the prevalence, profitability relative to other livelihood activities, and local importance of the trade, and its capacity to provide incentives for conservation. Thirteen percent of households were engaged in live animal collection in the study area (~5% trapped reptiles and amphibians and the remainder trapped invertebrates). This formed part of a diverse livelihood strategy, and was more profitable than other activities (in terms of returns per unit of effort), with median earnings of ~US$100 per season (~25% of Gross National Income per year). However, trapping was part-time, usually undertaken by poorer members of the community, and often perceived as opportunistic, risky, and financially unreliable. Further, trappers and nontrappers held similar perceptions regarding conservation, suggesting wildlife trade currently does not incentivize enhanced stewardship of traded species and their habitats. Our study brings together a range of methodologies to present the most comprehensive insights into livelihoods and conservation in poor rural communities involved in the commercial collection of live animals to supply international trade. This improved understanding of the wider socioeconomic dimensions of wildlife trade can inform policy and management interventions for both the threats and opportunities associated with global trade in biodiversity both in Madagascar and more generally.

Key words

amphibians; CBD; CITES; conservation; livelihoods; Madagascar; reptiles

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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