Global large carnivore conservation and international law

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    International cooperation, including through international legal instruments, appears important for the conservation of large carnivores worldwide. This is due to, inter alia, the worrying conservation status and population trends of many large carnivore species; the importance of large carnivores for biodiversity conservation at large; their occurrence at low densities, with many populations extending across various countries; and the international nature of particular threats. For the 31 heaviest species in the order Carnivora, this study (i) documents to what extent existing international legal instruments contribute to large carnivore conservation, and (ii) identifies ways of optimizing their contribution in this regard. From this dual perspective, it reviews all global wildlife conservation treaties—Ramsar Wetlands Convention, World Heritage Convention, Convention on Trade in Endangered Species, Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)—and selected regional instruments, using standard international law research methodology. Results indicate that a substantial body of relevant international law already exists, whereas simultaneously there is clear potential for enhancing the contribution of international law to large carnivore conservation. Avenues for pursuing this include promotion of instruments’ effective implementation; clarification of their precise implications for large carnivore conservation; development of formal guidance; expansion of instruments’ scope in terms of species, sites and countries; and creation of new instruments. The CMS and CBD hold particular potential in some of these respects. The experiences being gained under European legal instruments constitute an interesting ‘laboratory’ regarding human coexistence with expanding large carnivore populations and transboundary cooperation at the (sub)population level.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1567-1588
    Number of pages22
    JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
    Issue number7
    Early online date20 Mar 2015
    Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2015


    • large carnivores
    • transboundary cooperation
    • international law
    • Convention on Trade in Endangered Species
    • Convention on Migratory Species
    • Convention on Biological Diversity


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