Research framework

Identifying knowledge gaps

AWEI is identifying knowledge gaps regarding our understanding of wildlife management, production, utilisation, trade, and the governance needed to ensure that wildlife economies contribute to conserving nature and to promoting economic development that is inclusive and sustainable. In this regard, our research framework addresses three core themes: 

(1) Enabling environment;

(2) Ethics and principles; and

(3) Effective operations.

This page provides a list of indicative research topics.

Enabling environment and governance of the wildlife economy

Policies, laws, and regulations at the local, national, continental and international levels shape the way in which any wildlife economy functions – either at the entity-level or at the economy-wide level – and how it can contribute to conservation and development.

Indicative research topics

  • Wildlife ownership and use rights: investigating laws and regulations related to the ownership and use of wildlife and their implications for conservation and development, including tribal and customary law
  • Land tenure and conservation: investigating the challenges and opportunities for various land ownership systems to promote conservation and development – e.g., the wildlife economy impacts of South Africa’s plans to expropriate land without compensation
  • Standards for wildlife utilisation: investigating the role and lack of standards and validation schemes for ensuring that wildlife utilisation delivers conservation and development outcomes
  • Regulatory frameworks: investigating regulatory frameworks for wildlife utilisation across countries in Africa, exploration of options for regulatory coherence over African countries and possibilities for plurilateral agreements to promote sustainable wildlife utilisation
  • International agreements: investigating policy coherence with and between various international conventions that affect the African wildlife economy, such as the CBD, CITES and WTO, and exploration of options to address conflicts 
  • Policy effectiveness and gap analysis: Analytic comparison of policy effectiveness across countries and a gap analysis looking into which policies are lacking and need to be developed
  • Trade of wildlife: Analysis of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) in international trade in African wildlife economy products and proposals for overcoming them; and options of intercontinental and intra-regional trade in wildlife goods and services in Africa

Ethical context of the wildlife economy

Values, beliefs, and perceptions about the role of wildlife in society, and norms and attitudes to its use influence how we govern the conservation and sustainable utilisation of natural resources.

Indicative research topics

  • Wildness and sustainable development: investigating perceptions of ‘wildness’ – wildlife and wilderness – in the context of international sustainable development policy, for example, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Convention on Biological Diversity
  • The diversity of demand for wildlife meat in Africa: investigating varying attitudes to wildlife consumption across countries and communities in Africa
  • Attitudes to wildlife economies: attitudinal analysis of different stakeholder groups – e.g., consumers, industry stakeholders, government officials – across sub-sectors, value chains or several countries to better understand the influence of social norms on the uptake of wildlife products
  • Principles of wildlife economies: assessment of the role of sustainability principles – e.g., transparency, equity, and inclusivity – that enable or hinder the demand for wildlife economy goods and services by sector or in countries
  • Shared visions and branding: assessment and comparison of the ‘languages’ and ‘concepts’ used by different actors and stakeholders in wildlife economies, overcoming differences to create a roadmap for a common vision

Operations of the wildlife economy

The sustainability of the wildlife economy depends on well-functioning value chains in sectors such as tourism, harvesting, and wild meat production; and on effective systems of production management, product development, marketing, certification, sales, and finance.

Indicative research topics

  • Multi-use business models for wildlife ranches: investigating the integration of wildlife services – e.g. viewing and photography – with wildlife products such as meat to maximise conservation and development outcomes
  • Innovative management of Africa’s protected areas: investigating enhancement of the financial sustainability of Africa’s legally protected areas through establishing multi-use management systems
  • Marketing wildlife products: investigating the demand for different wildlife products and the opportunities to enhance their marketability
  • Enhancing value chains: developing and applying a model for value chain analysis, including identifying and maximising sustainable and inclusive opportunities within wildlife value chains
  • Standardising wildlife economies: identifying and applying suitable indicators for assessing the benefits/success of wildlife economies in SDG terms