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Sadly, one of the big obstacles to looking at the potential of (regulated) trade to combat wildlife poaching is that so many anti-trade people simply don't look at the arguments.

The one myth that should have died years ago under the weight of evidence, is that trade extinguishes poachers by 'flooding the market' with legal products (which in turn, reduce prices and make poaching less lucrative).

The reason this myth wrong is because people who want wildlife (and wildlife products) are interested in many dimensions. Things like the quality and origin of the product matter as well.

Let's illustrate. This is a graph of the production of farmed alligator skins in Louisiana. The obvious feature is that production has exploded. Nearly 300,000 farmed skins are produced every year now, up from the roughly 200 of 1980. That by any estimation is a massive increase that by anyone's reckoning, should have flooded the market and caused prices to crash.

Alligator Farmed Skin Output


Now, look at the prices. Not that there is no trend down as production trends up. The blip in the early 1990s is generally agreed to be a product of the recession in the important Japanese and European markets of the time.

Alligator Farmed Skin Prices


This is also a period where poaching (as with the estuarine crocodile in Australia/Papua New Guinea and eventually the caimans in Latin America) collapsed.

The reduction in poaching wasn't caused by flooding the market and causing prices to collapse. The reduction was caused by providing consumers with a product with other properties they valued. Farmed products could be made to a higher quality (less scratches and other defects), it had no risk of criminal sanction, it helped the conservation of wild alligator populations.

Again, I don't know if there are any suitable candidates in NZ for using trade as an adjunct to stop poaching. I think it is bizarre that we don't debate trade however and dismiss it out of hand. The current trade setting for our geckos, orchids and keas are to effectively put a bounty on them for poachers to collect. The inevitable result of using a trade ban as a conservation tool is to make prices much higher overseas. These higher prices are an effective 'bounty', a payment to smugglers to take our wildlife & they've got a monopoly on it.

Call me silly, but I'm not sure that paying people to poach our wildlife is such a sensible policy that debate is out of the question.