The Plight of the Pangolin: Key patterns enabling the illegal wildlife trade of pangolins in Namibia – a multi-perspective case study

The pangolin is the most trafficked mammal on earth and is believed to be on the brink of extinction. However, in many affected countries including Namibia, research and conservation efforts do not match their endangered status. Despite strict wildlife legislations, the level of illegal wildlife trade remains high, especially impacting Namibia’s rural communities. Thus, the aim of this thesis is to disclose the key enabling factors and underlying power relations fueling this trend in Namibia and, consequently, derive effective conservation and policy implications.

The approach of this thesis is a multi-perspective case study which creates a holistic view of this understudied topic. As a method, we chose six key groups of stakeholders to participate in semistructured interviews. The obtained data was further structured and analyzed through a socialecological systems approach paired with a political ecology lens.

We derived key enabling factors such as the lack of overall cooperation and knowledge exchange between all subsystems as well as the exclusion of important stakeholders. The pangolin, being a non-charismatic species, also suffers insufficient funding, due to its lack of value for the tourism and hunting industries. Further, entrenched asymmetric power relations were found to be one of the root causes. In this defunct system, the marginalization of rural communities creates a vicious cycle of insecurity and poverty resulting in illegal activities such as pangolin poaching.