Two groups that want to save elephants need to find common ground


Credit: (c) Art Wolfe /

In this Perspective, Duan Biggs et al. discuss ways in which two groups of people who want to help protect elephants from poaching – but disagree on the means – can achieve their common goal. Poaching for ivory has caused a steep decline in African elephant popu­lations over the past decade, which has fueled debate over what policy would best conserve elephants: banning all ivory trade or enabling regulated trade to incen­tivize and fund elephant conservation. The authors discuss the pros and cons of each approach, but note that the real divide stems from a failure to recognize the differ­ent moral perspectives, or "values," of stakeholders. Another major problem is that wild elephant ranges span multiple countries, each of which has a different opinion on the best course of action. Additionally, each country's resources to monitor and implement programs that aim to reduce poaching vary. Biggs et al. outline five key approaches that stakeholders can take to make progress, including engaging in discussions that account for other threats to elephants (such as habitat loss).These approaches will clarify the differences and commonalities in stakeholder views of pol­icy interventions. As well, the authors recommend a structured approach where the consequences of dif­ferent policies are evaluated in a way that minimizes bias and is considered legitimate by all partici­pants. The authors also note that major discussions on this issue in the past have been largely among international bodies, whereas interactions among a small group of key parties is more likely to engender stakeholder trust and agreement.


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