The Protection of Land-based Wildlife under International Law

Document Type : Original Articles


Department of Environmental Law, Environmental Sciences Research Institute, Shahid BeheshtiUniversity, G.C.


This article presents an overview of international wildlife protection law with the aim of presenting its breadth and the variety of approaches it takes which can be categorised as: protection by habitat; protection by species; protection through controlling trade; and protection as part of a wider ecosystem. The international law for the protection of wildlife presents a highly complex picture since (a) it relies on a variety of discreet approaches (or a combination thereof) (b) it applies to areas both within and beyond national jurisdiction (c) it applies also to areas such as Antarctica and international marine areas in which special international law regimes apply and (d) the subject of protection – animals – do not respect legally enforced territorial boundaries. In order to make it clearer, this article analyses the relevant law in the following manner: global treaties of general application; global treaties protecting habitats and/or species; and regional treaties. Other issues addressed include the use of scientific terminologies in a legal context and the relationship between wildlife conservation and animal welfare/rights. This analysis aims (a) to clarify the nature of the obligations placed on governments as Parties to these treaties (and the actions required for their implementation) and (b) to help us to identify the most effective strategies for the future development of national protective legislation and other measures. In view of the limited space available, the protection of land-based species is the focus of this article although, of course, the treaties described here apply also to the coastal and territorial waters of the Parties.