Wherever I may roam – adapting international wildlife law to the effects of climate change on wolverines, jackals, cheetahs and other carnivores

A/Prof Arie Trouwborst1, Dr Andrew Blackmore2

1Tilburg University, Tilburg, Netherlands, 2Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, , South Africa

Predators occupy important but vulnerable positions in ecosystems and face a broad range of (often overlapping) scenarios as a consequence of climate change, including:

  • shrinking and disrupted habitat (e.g., polar bear, wolverine);
  • range shifts, both upslope (e.g., snow leopard) and poleward, often beyond historic range (e.g., golden jackal);
  • reduced prey populations due to extreme weather and disease (e.g., cheetah);
  • increased human-wildlife conflict, when predators range beyond protected areas (e.g., African wild dog), or when predator range becomes suitable for livestock following distribution shifts of cattle diseases (e.g., lion).

All aforementioned and many other carnivore species are listed under global and/or regional legal instruments for wildlife conservation, such as the Convention on Migratory Species, the Bern Convention on European Wildlife, and the EU’s nature conservation legislation. Using standard international legal research methodology combined with knowledge from other disciplines regarding climate change impacts, and building on earlier analyses, this paper views current international wildlife law through the lens of the aforementioned scenarios and species.

In particular, it addresses the question to what extent relevant legal instruments are ‘climate-proof’ in terms of being prepared for said scenarios. The paper identifies benefits and drawbacks of the current international legal framework, traces recent developments within a range of legal regimes, and tables several innovative and forward-looking interpretations of key treaty provisions. Issues analyzed include protected area designation and management; connectivity; assisted colonization; and the status of species spreading beyond historic range under rules on invasive alien species and native wildlife conservation.


Arie Trouwborst is an associate professor of environmental law at Tilburg Law School in the Netherlands. He received an LLM (2001) and PhD (2006) from Utrecht University. He is interested in understanding and improving the contribution of international law to the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife. His work spans a broad range of legal instruments, countries, species and topics. To illustrate, recent publications focus on the legal status of animals pioneering beyond their historic range, the use of zoning in large carnivore management, and the role of international treaties in rhinoceros conservation. Currently, Trouwborst runs the research project Ius Carnivoris, on law and large carnivores. He frequently conducts advisory work for entities like the Convention on Migratory Species, the Bern Convention on European Wildlife Conservation, the European Commission, the IUCN, national governments and NGOs, and has been involved in the development of various resolutions, management/action plans and listing proposals. He had really wanted to be a biologist, and makes a point of spotting the animals he writes about in the wild.

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