Toward a new understanding of the links between poverty and illegal wildlife hunting

Rosaleen Duffy*, Freya A.V. St John, Bram Büscher, Dan Brockington

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

125 Citations (Scopus)


Conservation organizations have increasingly raised concerns about escalating rates of illegal hunting and trade in wildlife. Previous studies have concluded that people hunt illegally because they are financially poor or lack alternative livelihood strategies. However, there has been little attempt to develop a richer understanding of the motivations behind contemporary illegal wildlife hunting. As a first step, we reviewed the academic and policy literatures on poaching and illegal wildlife use and considered the meanings of poverty and the relative importance of structure and individual agency. We placed motivations for illegal wildlife hunting within the context of the complex history of how wildlife laws were initially designed and enforced to indicate how hunting practices by specific communities were criminalized. We also considered the nature of poverty and the reasons for economic deprivation in particular communities to indicate how particular understandings of poverty as material deprivation ultimately shape approaches to illegal wildlife hunting. We found there is a need for a much better understanding of what poverty is and what motivates people to hunt illegally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-22
Number of pages9
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Ivory
  • Poaching
  • Rhino horn
  • Rural development
  • Wildlife trade


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