The Role Of NGOs In Fighting The Exotic Pet Trade
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of varying sizes and types are working to combat the illegal wildlife and exotic pet trade, a growing problem that affects hundreds of millions of animals every year. This article, published in the Journal for Nature Conservation, examines the efforts and effectiveness of conservation and animal welfare NGOs in decreasing the illegal wildlife pet trade for domestic markets in Peru.
The authors identified 28 NGOs, including 14 conservation NGOs, nine animal welfare NGOs, and five dual-perspective NGOs focused on both conservation and animal welfare. Using data from published materials and interviews, the authors assigned each organization a level of effort (none, low, medium, or high) towards combating the trade. The number was based on activities the organizations participated in across four categories: outreach, advocacy, development, and animal husbandry. They also analyzed interviews to assess each organization’s level of knowledge of the trade and philosophical concerns for wildlife populations versus the welfare of individual animals.
Overall results indicate that 79% of the NGOs make some effort to decrease the illegal wildlife pet trade. But more than half of them make a “low” effort and the five dual-perspective NGOs were the only groups that make a “high” effort. The authors report that the dual-perspective NGOs engage in a broad spectrum of activities including outreach, research, and hands-on rehabilitation. They also express concern for both the welfare of individual animals and conservation of wild animal populations. The other NGOs engaged in fewer activities and tended to give priority to issues they consider to be more severe, including habitat preservation and stray dog welfare.
The authors note that the five dual-purpose NGOs appear to have made a significant impact, being largely responsible for lowering illegal wildlife trade dramatically in two areas of Peru. Interestingly, all five groups are small and volunteer-based, while several of the other groups are branches of large international organizations. The authors attribute the success of the dual-purpose groups to their “dedication to tackle multiple aspects of the trade as part of an integrated program” spurred by their “motivation to prioritize both individual wild animals and wildlife populations.”
For advocates, the findings reinforce the benefits of conducting multifaceted campaigns that incorporate varied outreach, advocacy, and hands-on activities. Those debating the individual versus population approaches to wildlife welfare and conservation may also take note of a quote from one of the dual-perspective NGOs on their interconnected approach. “We deny a difference between the individual and the population, they are the same thing, and when you worry about the welfare of the individual wild animal, that permits you to better understand the species and stimulates more serious work with wild populations.”