The Art Of Actual Change

Episode # 9 Tim Spalla With The Horn of Africa Conservation Alliance. Why Sitting On The Sidelines Of Conservation Is Not An Option

October 19, 2021 Derek Nielsen Season 1 Episode 9
The Art Of Actual Change
Episode # 9 Tim Spalla With The Horn of Africa Conservation Alliance. Why Sitting On The Sidelines Of Conservation Is Not An Option
Show Notes

Inside this episode Tim dives deep into the illegal wildlife trade and reveals the behind the scenes work going on to fight it. With his extensive military intelligence background, Tim has developed a skillset fine-tuned to work with locals, police and governments to bring these criminals to justice.

Global wildlife crime has been estimated by the UN to be worth between US $7 and $23 billion dollars per year, run by sophisticated criminal enterprises looking to capitalize on the high return and relatively low risks of the trade (UN, 2017; GEF, 2020). Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) has become the 4th most profitable global crime, behind the trafficking of drugs, arms, and humans. International criminal syndicates operating between the Middle East and the Horn of Africa (HOA) that specialize in the trade of live exotic animals are exploiting the insecurity and limited capacities of law enforcement agencies in the region, adding further pressure. As many as 300 cheetah cubs are being moved through the HOA corridor annually, mainly through Somaliland, making it by far the largest live cheetah smuggling corridor in the world (IAFW, CCF). This is particularly concerning because the entire Cheetah population is estimated at less than 7500, and as a result, scientists are pushing for reclassification on the IUCN Red List from vulnerable to endangered status (PNAS, 2017); CCF; IFAW). The HOA corridor also supports substantial illicit trade in other animal and forestry products, including antelopes, tortoises, birds, ivory, hardwood timber, and charcoal, utilizing the same highly advanced transnational crime networks. According to a Somaliland official, in Somaliland alone, more than 1,100 various exotic animals were seized from traffickers by authorities between 2018 and 2020. Countless others are sacrificed along the trade route, perishing in grueling trafficking conditions. Apart from the animal trade, the trade of illicit forestry products is generating substantial criminal revenues.

HOA conservation and CWT efforts are grossly underfunded in the region because conventional organizations are unable to operate. High risk, cultural barriers and political unrest have created an unfavorable working environment. His team is uniquely qualified to manage and mitigate risk in the HOA. Rather than a top-down approach, they are unique in their ability to come in on the ground, map out the problem and individual needs of the host country, and turn that into policy and capacity-building recommendations. They are able to work in this capacity because of the extensive partner networks they’ve built on the ground, backed by local knowledge, political connections and trusted community relations. The size and expertise of their team also allow them to be agile. By adjusting quickly to rapidly evolving conditions, they are able to maximize our potential to disrupt IWT activities. They were also able to work closely with their Government partners to build prosecution capacity and provide much-needed technical support.

Tims work can be found at

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