The following examples serve to generate some general discussion about wildlife markets and about questions of legality, illegality, and ethics. The examples involve scenarios that may be encountered by participants in real life and serve as 'ice-breakers' for groups of participants that may not have met before. The further goal of this exercise is to highlight the difficulties of separating legal from illegal activities and the legal, practical, and ethical challenges for intervention in illicit wildlife markets.
You are booked on a trip to Tanzania to visit Seregenti National Park and climb Mount Kilimanjaro. One week before you leave, the mother of your fiancé(e) (your future mother-in-law) asks you to bring back an ornament made from ivory in the shape of an elephant. She is a collector of curios from all over the world and your fiancé(e) confirms that bringing back the ivory ornament would make his/her mother very happy and would also improve your relationship with her. Ivory ornaments are not sold openly in markets in Tanzania but can easily be obtained for purchase when asking guides or souvenir shop owners.
Would you buy and bring back the ornament? Why? Why not?
Your 90-year-old Austrian grandmother dies and you inherit a fashionable fur coat from her. The coat is made from ocelot, leopardis pardalis, which was listed in CITES Appendix I in 1990. Your grandmother purchased the coat from a local shop in 1993. The circumstances of the sale and the knowledge, if any, of the CITES-listing by the seller or the grandmother can no longer be established. The current value of the ocelot fur coat is EUR 3,000.
Would you wear the coat, sell it, or throw it away?
A friend from China has invited you to his wedding, which is celebrated in grand style in your friend's hometown. The formal wedding dinner, at which a traditional Cantonese dinner is served, is one of the highlights. The menu cards placed on each table set out each of the ten courses. The third course is listed in the English menu as 'fish soup'. Your Chinese friend, however, points out to you that the Chinese menu lists this course as shark fin soup, an expensive, highly valued Chinese delicacy, that is traditionally served at many Chinese weddings.
What do you do? Do you leave out the soup course? Protest loudly? Boycott the dinner? Eat the soup politely to please the hosts?
One of your friends is about to celebrate a major birthday and you want to buy him a gift to remember you by. Your friend is a passionate chess player, so you trawl the Internet and look at several websites selling second hand goods where you hope to find an antique chess board for your friend. During your search on a public, commonly used site to buy and sell pre-owned goods, you come across a post selling an elegantly carved chess board along with a note saying 'made from African ivory, brand new, recently purchased'. The private seller further states that the item needs to be sold for a low price as the seller is relocating.
What do you do? Do you alert the relevant authorities? Report the seller to the company that operates the website? Contact the seller to alert him/her that selling ivory is illegal? Buy the chessboard? Ignore the post and keep looking?
Looking at the answers given to the four scenarios: what determines your decision? By what criteria would you proceed one way or another? In your opinion, what is the lawful, ethical thing to do, and why?
The purpose of this exercise is to give students insight into actual cases involving wildlife trafficking from different countries and give the full picture of the criminal justice process from the commission of the crime, to the investigation, prosecution, and court proceedings. The cases further illustrate the evidentiary and legal challenges associated with prosecuting wildlife and trafficking and introduces students to the UNODC SHERLOC portal.
In groups of multiple students, read one of the following cases and answer the following questions. Each group will then present their case and answers in class.