I am thrilled to be welcoming Dr. Helen Agu from the University of Nigeria Nsukka to my lab for the next year! Dr. Agu is an Early Career Female Science Visiting Scholar with the MSU Alliance for African Partnership and the African Futures Research Leadership Program. We will be working on the topicof women in wildlife trafficking. Helen brings expertise in environmental laws, climate change impacts on human migration, gender and justice. She is one of three scientists from her university joining MSU for this academic year.
Illegal wildlife trade and wildlife trafficking create risks to species and societies in which they occur. These environmental risks have implications beyond species extinction and animal welfare, although those risks can be substantial. Wildlife trafficking is associated with corruption, money laundering, degradation of the rule of law, national insecurity, spread of zoonotic disease, undercutting sustainable development investments, erosion of cultural resources and convergence with other serious crimes. Although wildlife trafficking is occurring in at least 120 countries around the world, Africa is home to many high-profile species, protected areas, and people involved in the global criminal economy. (e.g., pangolin scales to Asia; African gray parrots to Europe; cheetah cubs to the Middle East; African vulture brains from Cameroon to South Africa). Studying wildlife trafficking in Africa is underscored by the cross-border and transboundary nature of the crime, diversity of wildlife populations, and community-based management regimes. Perhaps in part because wildlife trafficking can involve multiple serious aspects of criminality, violence, and violations of the rule of law, it is increasingly emphasized by decision-makers and donors as being worthy of interdisciplinary and multi-sectoral investment—including by the scientific and foreign affairs communities. Unfortunately, the gendered dimensions of wildlife trafficking are unknown. We lack insight about the gendered costs and benefits of participating in wildlife trafficking interventions along each link of the supply chain. We do not know if thinking about gendered participation in interventions is necessary or sufficient for success. We do not know if gender differences signal different priorities or incentives to participate in efforts to reduce wildlife trafficking-related risks. We also lack insight about the nuances of gendered participation in poaching, trafficking, and selling illegal wildlife products, either directly, in supporting roles, or as managers. Thus, policies, programs and projects designed to reduce risks associated with wildlife trafficking may fail to achieve outcomes, be monitored and evaluated using accurate metrics, and promote the voice of local scientists during science-policy discourse.
Stay tuned as Dr. Agu and I collaborate to build new policy-relevant knowledge about this important dimension of wildlife trafficking!