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Exploring the dynamics of South Africa’s illegal abalone trade via routine activities theory

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Abstract

The illicit trade in African wildlife has a lengthy history with devastating effect on select species. While considerable research addresses the impact of the trade on rhinoceros and elephant, the poaching of the reptiles, birds and marine life comprises a significantly greater volume of wildlife yet receives somewhat less attention. To better understand these aspects of the illegal trade, this study focuses on abalone, a highly desired and protected shellfish found off the Western Cape of South Africa and heavily targeted by poachers to meet demand in South Africa and parts of East Asia. Relying on qualitative data from field research, this study examines the nature of the illicit trade including poachers, smuggling techniques and the challenges for enforcement of the conservation laws through the lens of routine activity theory. The results indicate that routine activities theory may provide a viable theoretical construct to better understand the nature of abalone poaching and develop solutions to the problem.

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Warchol, G., Harrington, M. Exploring the dynamics of South Africa’s illegal abalone trade via routine activities theory. Trends Organ Crim 19, 21–41 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12117-016-9265-4

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