Aiding Animals: Does Foreign Aid Reduce Wildlife Crime?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The illegal wildlife trade has come to the forefront of global politics, driven by concerns about biodiversity loss, illicit markets, and animal-borne infectious diseases. Yet, poaching remains common in many countries. The persistence of illegal hunting is attributable to (among other factors) poverty and poor labor market opportunities, which leave individuals in some communities with few viable alternatives to wildlife crime. Foreign aid that alleviates poverty and unemployment may, therefore, lead to a reduction in illegal hunting. However, cross-national research on aid and economic development offers mixed findings, suggesting a conditional effect. Against this backdrop, I theorize that aid reduces the economic pressures that contribute to poaching, but only in countries with representative political institutions. I test a corresponding hypothesis using data on elephant poaching in African and Asian countries. My findings show that aid is accompanied by a reduction in elephant poaching in democracies, but not in authoritarian countries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-60
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Environment and Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • conservation
  • elephants
  • foreign aid
  • ivory
  • poaching
  • wildlife crime

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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