Environmental Security Observatory

The newly established Environmental Security Observatory (ESO) embraces a novel approach, which incorporates a nuanced understanding of security as suggested by Dalby (2002: 60):[1] 

“… security is not about protecting a stable status quo from an external threat. It is about developing an economic system that reduces dependence on a single resource, a dynamic system that can accommodate change. This does not fit easily into traditional understandings of defence or national security…”

The aim of the ESO is to undertake rigorous independent social sciences research that forms the basis for sound evidence–based interventions to disrupt illegal wildlife trades.  Our focus is on the governance (understood as the shaping of the flow of events) of the ecosystems of illegal economies by a wide variety of nodes — state and non-state, public-private, legal-illegal.  We are concerned with the governance of safety and security, with a specific focus on illegal wildlife economies and the ecosystems that support them, as well as their intersections with legal economies.  


The ESO will explore themes such as:

  • The structure and functioning of illegal and legal wildlife economies and the ecosystems that support them
  • Interfaces between legal and illegal wildlife economies
  • Transnational flows of rhino horn
  • An assessment of current strategies aimed at disrupting illicit wildlife economies and the ecosystems stifling legal trades
  • Developing alternative strategies that strengthen ecosystems that support and enable legal wildlife economies




[1] Dalby, Simon, 2002: Environmental security. Vol. 20. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.