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Cross-Scale Controversies on Wildlife Trafficking

Authors: Felber Arroyave*, University of California - Merced - Merced, Jeffrey Jenkins, Management of Complex Systems Department, University of California - Merced, Alexander Petersen, Management of Complex Systems Department, University of California - Merced
Topics: Environmental Perception, Animal Geographies, Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: Wildlife trafficking, Environmental conflict, Natural Resources governance,
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 1:45 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Virtual Track 3
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Wildlife trafficking is a particular wicked problem in the intersection of cultural heritage and species conservation. Similarly to other environmental problems, species use is a paradox, whereas species have a significant role on cultural customs and economies, especially in rural and poor areas; overharvesting threatens species’ survival and other ecosystem functions. In a socio-ecological perspective, interactions between humans and wildlife are intermediated by different artifacts such as meanings, technologies and, institutions. In this setting, multiple human and non-human actors and their interests frequently lead controversies and power disputes, weakening the governance of natural resources. Hence, mapping interaction between actors involved is relevant for understanding the sources of disputes as well as for provoking discussions about how to harmonize competing uses of wildlife. In this regard, we assess how perspectives of stakeholders (local communities, policy enforcers, practitioners, and academics) diverge/converge across spatial and institutional scales using the case of illegal trade of reptiles in Colombia. This case is relevant due to the biotic, social, institutional and cultural diversity embedded. Through interviews with stakeholders we reconstruct their narratives, and we identify controversies by implementing a Factor Analysis of their responses. Our results suggest that there is lack of consensus at spatial and institutional scales, nonetheless alignments between actors in power are frequent. Mistrust, species’ meanings, the lawscape and, cultural backgrounds contribute on explaining controversies. Yet, current controversies and power disparities contribute to uncontrolled use of species and prosecution of communities. Under these conditions, mechanisms to promote multi-level management of wildlife are unclear.

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