Our Visiting Fellows Scheme allows current and potential collaborators to spend time engaging closely with our team

Our ethos is that improving engagement and collaboration between researchers, conservation practitioners in the international and local NGO sectors, policy makers and influencers as well as related businesses will help to create and implement more effective and impactful strategies and interventions on the ground, informed by scientific research. This will help to bridge the widely recognised mismatch between academic research and conservation practice for issues surrounding the illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade. Conservation organisations contain many highly skilled individuals who have substantial experience in implementing conservation on the ground, and often have collected excellent datasets which could contribute to the academic evidence base on policy effectiveness. However, often they do not have the time, technical skills or academic environment within which to write these datasets up for publication, nor exposure to academics which can help ground theory in practice.

The programme offers such individuals (or other academics) the chance to spend up to 3 months with our core research team as well as our affiliated ICCS group at the University of Oxford to enable and develop collaborative publications, ideas or proposals. The Fellow will be encouraged to take part in a range of valuable interactions with other academic colleagues, students (undergraduate and post-graduate) and potential donors. Visiting Fellows will be encouraged to take part in and contribute to current or upcoming engagement initiatives, workshops or events, such as Trading Ideas or our annual Wildlife Trade Symposia.

Meet our Fellows:

Kumar Paudel

I am an environmental enthusiast who sees himself as a well-known conservationist in days to come. Following my dreams, I am working to understand the problems in conservation of biological diversity and wildlife; and, implement them in grass-roots level. I am leading a local environmental non-profit organisation called “Greenhood Nepal” as a founder president for last 5 years working. Here, I work with youths and community people to curb the illegal wildlife trade of endangered species and few other environmental programs.  I have worked for almost 7 years on community-based conservation, advocacy and campaigns. I have prepared and disseminated conservation awareness materials like hoarding boards, flex, infographics, documentaries, articles, etc. targeting the wide audience. And, in last few years, I am targeting to understand the drivers of illegal wildlife trade chain in Nepal so that it will be easier to implement innovative conservation ideas and break the chains.  Currently, I am working on a research to understand people’s motivations to participate in the harvest, transportation and trade of wildlife parts in Nepal. In order to generate the ground understanding about the drivers of illegal wildlife trade, I have travelled across Nepal where I got the chance to interact with more than 110 illegal wildlife trade prisoners in different prisons. This study took almost a year and now I am working on my final outputs.  Furthermore, I did my masters’ thesis on, “Assessing illegal wildlife trade in Nepal-China border region.” I presented my work in Beyond Enforcement: Communities, governance, incentives and sustainable use in combating wildlife crime symposium in February 2015 by SULi, IUCN and, attended some other conservation events around the world.

I am very excited to be a part of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Illegal Wildlife Trade. I am applying social science to some really interesting conservation problems in Nepal i.e. interviewing IWT prisoners to understand their motivations to participate in IWT and collecting responses from the local community about the myths of price, demand and market of the wildlife parts. During my fellowship, I am focusing on learning methods to enhance my understanding of the supply side of the wildlife trade, including choice experiments and the Unmatched Count Technique. Additionally, I have collected some good quantitative and qualitative data during my community-based conservation work. I have also gathered data from my Rufford supported project entitled, “Monitoring illegal wildlife trade in Nepal-China border region.” I feel the necessity to learn more to make my work more efficient and impactful to tackle the complex problems of biodiversity conservation in Nepal. Through this fellowship, I’m looking forward to sharing my own experiences and research at the Wildlife Trade Symposium and other forums, whilst improving my skills in scientific writing and analysis. I will also be contributing to the development of the Programme’s Tools & Guidance, specifically with regards to analyzing seizure data. The academic environment and interactions with experts, academic colleagues, and potential donors will be a good addition for my conservation career.

Thona Lim

I am currently a research program officer at Free the Bears (FtB), Cambodia. I completed my master degree in Biodiversity Conservation at the Royal University of Phnom Penh in 2015. My relevant experiences were about conducting both biological/ecological and social research in order to understand problems on biodiversity and wildlife, and throughout the research findings to provide the recommendations on wildlife conservation in my home country.  In my roles with Free the Bears, I have been and am currently involved in implementing the various research projects which responsibilities on coordinating the field research teams, collecting, managing and analyzing data etc. I am also coordinating with other partners, including mentoring scholarship students conducting bear-related research for Master on Biodiversity Conservation and government agencies to secure research permits and approvals. I am involved in wild bear distribution research in Cambodia and Vietnam, and now I am also working on a social research project to understand attitudes towards bears and bear part use in Cambodia which is the collaborative work between Free the Bears and San Diego Zoo Global (SDZG) aiming to reduce the demand for bears and bear parts – it is one of the main steps towards reducing the threats to wild bear population in the country. In addition, I am also assisting with ex-situ ecological and behavioural bear-related research in Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre.

I am very thankful to be a part of the Oxford Martin Programme on Illegal Wildlife Trade as Visiting Fellow. We have known the current status of bears is threatened by the huge demand within Cambodia and across the world especially for Asian traditional medicine which is still a barrier to the conservation success of these species. Cambodia is reported to have the highest bear seizures in the region. According to our current social research on attitudes and the demand of bear and bear part use, conducted across different geographic areas in Cambodia, it was suggested the next step needed was to reduce those demands. Through my fellowship, I hope to learn enough to feel confident to carry out a behaviour change campaign, from design, setup, through to evaluation. During this fellowship, I will work on next grant phase from a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services project which is a collaboration between FTB/SDZG to implement and develop a theory of change to reduce the demand and change behaviour for bear parts in Cambodia. This opportunity will be an important platform to empower my work to improve the conservation of the rare Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanu) and endangered Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus) in Cambodia. 

For further information about our fellowships or to express your interest, please contact Nafeesa Esmail.

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