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Western conservation groups are seeking stricter law enforcement to tackle a trade in endangered wildlife, but an Oxford University researcher warns that this is not a 'silver bullet' solution and highlights the case of the Bali Starling in an article published in the journal Oryx.

Tougher laws to reduce wildlife trade can backfire

In the case of the Bali Starling, bringing in tougher laws created unexpected outcomes – they helped make the bird more popular among members of the elite who kept birds. Dr Paul Jepson, from Oxford’s School of Geography and the Environment, believes this contributed to the bird’s extinction in the wild in 2006. Initiatives need to be more flexible and creative, he suggests, arguing that local conservation groups should be given more support as often their solutions take into account the realities on the ground.  

He examines three different conservation approaches, spanning 30 years, aimed at protecting the Bali starling (Leucopsar rothschildi). He shows that a traditional protection and law enforcement approach that outlawed ownership of the Bali Starling in the 1980s and 1990s increased rather than reduced demand for wild-caught Bali Starlings. The bird became a popular gift among the elite of Indonesia, who gained more status by owning the bird because the relevant Indonesian government agencies felt they could not crack down on members of high society.

Leading conservation groups take a different view to Dr Jepson. At the 2014 London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, they pressed governments worldwide to ensure greater efforts were made to enforce the law against those involved in the black market.

Read more on the University website