Building a global taxonomy of wildlife offences

Pascual, Maria and Wingard, James and Bhatri, Naila and Rydannykh, Alyona and Phelps, Jacob (2021) Building a global taxonomy of wildlife offences. Conservation Biology. ISSN 0888-8892

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Environmental laws are ubiquitous, including to the field of conservation where they define how wildlife can be legally used, managed and protected. However, debates about environmental law regularly overlook the details within national legislation that define which specific acts are illegal, where laws apply, and how they are sanctioned. Based on a review of nearly 200 wildlife laws in 8 countries, we developed a taxonomy that describes all types of wildlife offences in those countries. The 511 offences are organized into a hierarchical taxonomy that scholars and practitioners can use to help conduct legal analyses globally, providing more nuance and facilitating like-for-like comparisons of laws across countries. This is significant amidst competing calls to strengthen, deregulate and reform wildlife legislation, particularly in response to fears over zoonotic threats and large-scale biodiversity loss. The taxonomy can be used to analyse legal reforms (e.g., new laws, deregulation, closing loopholes, harmonising legislation), or to establish international standards. For example, we apply the taxonomy to compare how 8 countries sanction the offence of “hunting a protected species”, to explore different scales and approaches to imposing fines and imprisonment. The taxonomy also illustrates how future legal taxonomies can be developed in the environment sector.

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Journal Article
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Conservation Biology
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Deposited On:
14 Jul 2021 12:15
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2022 10:16