Praise Program to Transform Instead of Punish Poachers


Target: Community Markets for Conservation Director Dale Lewis

Goal: Applaud organization for making an effort to provide other career paths for willing poachers

Poaching is no small problem in African countries, where innocent exotic creatures like elephants, rhinos, lions, and leopards are killed for their tusks, horns, and pelts. But the reality is that most people involved in poaching are small-time farmers and impoverished family men just trying to support their loved ones. While poaching means big bucks for those trading thousands or millions of tons of these trophies and commodities, for the men and women on the ground it is barely enough to keep their families afloat. So in 2001 Wildlife Conservation Society biologist Dale Lewis put this information to work by giving other opportunities to poachers in the Luangwa Valley in Zambia.

Lewis founded Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) in order to reduce poverty and increase conservation efforts among locals by empowering them with education in farming, metalworking, carpentry, and beekeeping. Now residents in the Luangwa Valley have other opportunities that will actually allow them to provide a decent life for their children through honest work – not to mention that it can create a family business so that the knowledge will be passed down from generation to generation. Since COMACO’s founding in 2001, over 660 poachers have voluntarily given up poaching in order to receive training in legal industries. COMACO estimates that 50 or 60 animals per year have been saved from the trade for each poacher retired. As one poacher-turned-carpenter put it, “With a table, I can sell it [openly] to any person who wants it. Now I work with people in the open…My sons will be carpenters, and life will be better for them.” 

By signing this petition, you are thanking Dale Lewis and COMACO for their tireless work in empowering locals to get out of the poaching industry and support their families through honest, profitable work.


Dear Director Dale Lewis,

I am overjoyed to read of the successes of the COMACO program in Zambia – for wildlife, for the people, and for the local government. Saving money and resources by preventing further arrests of people who are merely trying to provide for their families is a fantastic goal. Combining it with efforts to reduce poaching and poverty by empowering the people directly is an ingenious plan.

Thank you for seeing the connection between Zambians’ poverty and the poaching trade that takes advantage of local peoples’ lack of other skills. Thank you for working tirelessly to educate and empower locals to pursue other career paths that not only allow them to support their families now, but also provide them with a family business that is a long-term plan for success for their children as well.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: betty x1138 via Flickr

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