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The economy of legal wildlife trade

Year: 2008 Author: Hugo Ahlenius, UNEP/GRID-Arendal
The trade in wild species can contribute significantly to rural incomes, and the effect upon local economies can be substantial. The high value of wildlife products and derivatives can also provide positive economic incentives to provide an alternative to other land use options for the local people - to protect wild species and their habitats, and to maintain the resource for sustainable and profitable use in the medium and long term. Consequently, managed wildlife trade can be beneficial to species and habitat conservation, as well as contributing towards livelihoods and social development. Legal international wildlife trade, according to one estimate, was worth around € 240 billion (USD 300 billion) in 2005, most of it accounted for by timber and fisheries. Illegal trade is big business too. By its nature, the scale of illegal wildlife trade is impossible to know precisely. One guess puts the value of illegal caviar trade at many times that of legal commerce—itself worth €244m. A better understanding of the trade dynamics, incentives for better management of wildlife under threat and engagement of stakeholders at all levels and places are needed to avoid people previously dependent on the trade may decide to trade wildlife illegally in order to maintain their income. International trade restrictions such as CITES – the convention on international trade of endangered wildlife - seem to not be sufficient to address the harmful forms of wildlife trade.
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