Let's Stop Quoting Monetary Value of Seized Wildlife

Let's Stop Quoting Monetary Value of Seized Wildlife
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Just have a look at titles of some of news articles pertaining to wildlife seizures!!!

Now watch the following news pertaining to wildlife seizure on a Television Channel!!!

We often come across such news articles/news in print/digital media  and in electronic media about cross border/domestic smuggling/illegal trade and seizures of wildlife/wildlife contrabands by enforcement agencies at various airports, sea ports, land customs stations, air cargo complexes, international courier terminals, foreign post offices and within domestic territory. It is observed that in many cases enforcement agencies also quote a monetary value of seized wildlife/wildlife contraband without realizing that this may inadvertently further incentivize wildlife crimes by making wildlife more vulnerable to  poaching/hunting and illegal trade. Adding a price tag with the seized wildlife/wildlife contraband and publicizing that through media may sensationalize the seizure by enforcement agency but it also commodifies the wildlife like any other tradable goods. Economically vulnerable community living in and around Protected Areas like National Parks, Tiger Reserves, Wildlife Sanctuaries etc. may get tempted for poaching and illegal trade of the species which are being reported to be smuggled or illegally traded at high values. Similarly, in third world countries many educated unemployed youth may also indulge in wildlife trafficking to make easy money. The exorbitant quoted value may also attract organized criminal syndicate into wildlife trafficking posing serious threats for many species in the source countries. 

Therefore, it is necessary that  proper advisories/instructions should be issued by all wildlife law enforcement agencies like customs & other border guarding agencies, forest/wildlife department, police department to their officials for not quoting the monetary value of seized wildlife/wildlife contrabands. Necessary changes in anti-smuggling and  wildlife protection laws may also be done in case penalty/punishment is based upon the monetary value of seized wildlife/wildlife contrabands under those laws. Instead of value, provisions for penalty/punishment should be made on the basis of degree of threat of survival being faced by that particular species e.g. on the basis of Appendix of CITES or the level of protection accorded to that particular species under domestic wildlife protection laws etc. International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) consisting of INTERPOL, WCO, UNODC, CITES & World Bank Group may take lead in impressing upon their member countries for introducing legislative/regulatory measures as required for not quoting monetary values of seized wildlife/wildlife contrabands.

There is also a need for shifting the narrative away from monetary value of seized wildlife/wildlife contraband and highlight the disastrous consequences of illegal wildlife trade for ecology and human civilization itself. Enforcement Agencies through their Press Release/Social Media accounts must focus on negative consequences of hunting/poaching/illegal trade of that particular species such as deforestation, snow melting, climate change, global warming, wildfires, risk of transmission of zoonotic viruses from wildlife to humans resulting into catastrophic Pandemics like COVID-19. Such kind of Reporting in cases of wildlife seizures makes reporting relatable for the readers/audience. 

Media can also play a proactive constructive  role through visual story telling by incorporating visually compelling photographs, infographics, videos etc. to effectively convey the negative impacts of illegal wildlife trade on environment and human beings. Visual story telling methods has potential of creating awareness about this phenomenon among the masses leading to understanding of the urgent need for collective action for protection of the biodiversity and need for combating illegal wildlife trade.

Highlighting the positive outcomes of conservation of the wildlife species being illegally traded/smuggled may also focus the attention of the audience to the benefits of preventing poaching/hunting/illegal trade of that particular species. For example, highlighting the fact that conservation of tigers in India through Project Tiger has not only resulted in the substantial increase of tiger population in India but also the enhanced protected forest cover for tiger conservation has absorbed one million metric tons of carbon emissions through avoided deforestation; thus mitigating the negative impacts of climate change for the human civilization. (Climate co-benefits of tiger conservation | Nature Ecology & Evolution)

Thus shifting the focus away from monetary value of seized wildlife to the ecological damage caused by illegal wildlife trade and the benefits of protecting wildlife for human civilization may go a long way in achieving the goal of wildlife conservation and averting the impending risk of sixth mass extinction.

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Go to the profile of Adam Barlow
12 months ago

Interesting to read - thanks Arvind. As the media live off sensation I like the idea of giving them other/less harmful sensational messages.

Go to the profile of Arvind Kumar Chaurasia
12 months ago

Thanks Adam. 

Go to the profile of Lara Reden
12 months ago

Thanks for sharing, Arvind. You bring up a good point about the unintended impact messaging can have. 

Go to the profile of Arvind Kumar Chaurasia
12 months ago

Thanks Lara. 

Go to the profile of Kay Farmer
12 months ago

Thanks for sharing and interesting to read. Conversely it would be really interesting to know more about the costs of managing the care of these seized animals, in some instances life time care as rehab and release may not be possible, so that these costs can be better understood and added to funding pots for these facilities 

Go to the profile of Arvind Kumar Chaurasia
12 months ago

Thanks Kay for your observation. You made very valid points regarding cost incurred for care of seized wildlife which should also be taken into consideration. 

Go to the profile of Grace Alawa
11 months ago

Great write-up Arvind, thanks for sharing. The shift to focus on the ecological damage caused by illegal wildlife trade is a better approach. 

Go to the profile of Arvind Kumar Chaurasia
11 months ago

Thanks Grace for appreciating the write-up.

Go to the profile of "ABIM" Abimbola Isafiade
11 months ago

Very true and I share same thoughts on this, and i try always to sensitize our public relations/ media team but they do otherwise. 
I will, henceforth incorporate your suggestions in my recommendations to our media team, "to effectively convey the negative impacts of illegal wildlife trade on environment and human beings".

Thank you Arvind !

Go to the profile of Arvind Kumar Chaurasia
11 months ago

Thank you Abimbola for you positive comments.

Go to the profile of Thirza Loffeld
11 months ago

great post Arvind with useful insights - thank you for sharing. 

Perhaps also of interest to our community members with an interest in science communication@Carolyn Rosevelt, MSc and@Giuseppe Forestieri 

Go to the profile of Arvind Kumar Chaurasia
11 months ago

Thanks Thirza. 

Go to the profile of Carolyn Rosevelt, MSc
11 months ago

There are various programs and organizations in the states that train scientists how to better communicate their findings. What tools do wildlife managers use when asked to speak to the media? Thanks @Arvind Kumar Chaurasia for sharing this article and information.

Go to the profile of Arvind Kumar Chaurasia
11 months ago

Thanks Carolyn. 

Go to the profile of Danielle Fryday
10 months ago

Thanks Arvind for this article - you provide a very interesting and important perspective. I completely agree on needing to shift the message from a focus on financial value to ecological value. Communicating the ecological value provides a more holistic and realistic 'valuation' of an animal/species' contribution to our world, and may hopefully contribute to changing what society values - we need to look beyond GDP/financial growth and take a more holistic view of what is important for a good life, both individually and collectively. 

Go to the profile of Arvind Kumar Chaurasia
9 months ago

Thanks @Danielle Fryday