Trade restrictions are often advocated and implemented as measures to protect wild species threatened by overexploitation. However, in some instances, their efficacy has been questioned, notably by governments in the southern African (SADC) region, which tend to favor a sustainable use approach to wildlife management. We conducted a systematic review of published literature guided by the PRISMA process to examine the effectiveness of trade restrictions and directly related control measures in addressing threats to species conservation in the SADC region, with a focus on elephants (Loxodonta sp.), rhinoceroses (Ceratotherium simum, Diceros bicornis), lions (Panthera leo), and pangolins (Manis sp.). We focused in particular on the direct conservation impact of trade restrictions at species or population level, indirect conservation impact at human behavior or attitude level, and socioeconomic impact on rural livelihoods and well-being and on national economies. Research on these topics was uneven and focused strongly on the effects of trade restrictions and law enforcement on crime-related behavior. Research gaps include socioeconomic impacts of trade restrictions, including effects of international restrictions on local livelihoods and consequent secondary conservation impacts, and evaluations of attempts to disrupt criminal networks. Based on the reviewed impact evidence, the effectiveness of international trade restrictions depends on a range of fully aligned measures in countries of origin, transit, and consumption. For example, our results suggest positive ecological short-term but negative or unknown long-term socioeconomic impacts of domestic restrictions. Based on these findings, key policy requirements include more nuanced approaches to incorporate a range of appropriate measures in range, transit, and consumer countries, that focus on capacity development for early detection and apprehension of incursions inside protected areas; measures for constructive engagement with relevant local communities outside protected areas; and future research to improve understanding of the socioeconomic contribution of wildlife.

Hiller, C., & ’t Sas-Rolfes, M. (2024). Systematic review of the impact of restrictive wildlife trade measures on conservation of iconic
species in southern Africa. Conservation Biology, e14262.