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Preventing Wildlife Crimes: Solutions That Can Overcome the 'Tragedy of the Commons'

NCJ Number
European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research Volume: 17 Issue: 2 Dated: June 2011 Pages: 101-123
Stephen F. Pires; William D. Moreto
Date Published
June 2011
23 pages
This article explores the illegal wildlife trade.
The 'tragedy of the commons' dilemma occurs when individuals working independently of one another, will overuse a common-property resource for short-term benefits while decimating the resource for long-term use (Hardin 1968). This is often found in the field of wildlife crimes where species become overexploited to increase short-term profits while endangering and eliminating a natural resource for future users. Wildlife crimes suffering from the 'tragedy' need to be prevented in order for species to avoid extinction while also conserving a natural resource that monetarily benefits numerous people and their respective communities. Current approaches to the illegal wildlife trade include implementing trade bans or regulatory schemes at the national and international level, yet their effectiveness of reducing the trade is unknown. Perhaps, a better approach in reducing the illegal wildlife trade is a combination of making it more difficult to poach (i.e. situational crime prevention) and incentivizing locals to abstain from poaching. This paper will first review the literature on wildlife crimes and then use a case study approach that will examine the literature on the illegal parrot trade, the market for wildlife skins, and over-fishing. Through these case studies, a comprehensive review of the problem will be detailed as well as innovative conservation solutions that show promise in reducing the poaching and exploitation of species. Amongst these solutions will be the use of situational crime prevention that has shown immediate reductions in crime when tailored towards highly-targeted areas and crimes. (Published Abstract)