May 05, 2022

Improving International Protections for Wild Animals

The Law School recently hosted an innovative workshop on wildlife law taught by Professor Tanya Wyatt of Northumbria University, which pushed participants to think critically about what we perceive wildlife to be and how we conceptualize it in the law. Co-hosted by Professor Wyatt, the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS), and Lewis & Clark Law School’s Environment, Natural Resources, and Energy Law Program.

What is “wildlife”? Too often in our work we take mutual understanding for granted and we make assumptions, but sometimes questions are asked that probe the most fundamental of concepts. Professor Tanya Wyatt of Northumbria University has spent a year studying this question, and she shared her expertise via a recent visit to Lewis & Clark Law School. The Workshop—Wildlife and the Law: Implications and Ways Forward—co-hosted by Professor Wyatt, the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS), and Lewis & Clark Law School’s Environment, Natural Resources, and Energy Law Program, pushed participants to think critically about what we perceive wildlife to be and how we conceptualize it in the law.

The global wildlife trade has been given increasing attention in recent years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has more people than ever talking about our relationship with animals. Debates are ongoing as to how to strengthen and possibly even reform the current international legal framework in order to mitigate the risks connected to legal trade and to effectively tackle its illegal dimension. The Workshop was designed as an in-depth exploration regarding how wildlife can better be protected. With this goal in mind, Professor Wyatt and the Global Law Alliance for Animals and the Environment (GLA), along with Lewis & Clark Law JD clinic students and a team of CALS international Animal Law LLM students, workshopped the “What is Wildlife” question from an animal focused vantage point. Through international perspectives, workshop participants drew out some of the ways legal constructs impact our efforts to combat wildlife trafficking.

Clinical Professor Erica Lyman, Director of the Global Law Alliance, presenting at the wildlife law workshop.The Workshop began with a foundational presentation by Lewis & Clark Law Clinical Professor Erica Lyman, Director of GLA, showcasing a range of binary perspectives on plants and animals and how these perspectives give shape to legal definitions of “wildlife.” Professor Lyman highlighted binaries such as flora and fauna, aquatic animals and terrestrial animals, native and non-native species, invasive and endemic species, liminal and forest species, and rare and common species. These distinct ways of perceiving flora and fauna influence legal definitions and thus the scope of wildlife law and its ability to address wildlife trafficking.

Professor Tanya Wyatt of Northumbria University presenting at the Workshop held on April 15, 2022.With this foundation, Professor Wyatt led participants through her research, which includes an examination of the effectiveness of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) from multiple data sets. Professor Wyatt explained that her research demonstrates that CITES Parties have, for the most part, avoided listing commercially valuable species, highlighting yet another anthropocentric-based construct that limits protection of wild animals. She also shared research that documents legal biases against treatment of aquatic animals as wildlife. With these shortcomings now documented, Professor Wyatt urged greater protections for all wild animals under international law.

Three international Lewis & Clark Law Animal Law LLM candidates then shared perspectives from their home countries. Vanessa Gishkow Garbini shared that under Brazil’s constitution all flora and fauna enjoy certain rights but that under statutory law, the concept of wildlife is a more limited concept, meaning that only certain animals are protected as wildlife in Brazil. Yvonne Gurira shared that in Zimbabwe legal definitions of wildlife have affected the ability of prosecutors to successfully prosecute certain wildlife cases, especially where evidence is limited as to the specific origin of certain wildlife products. Marcia Condoy Truyenque noted that in Peru, differences exist across laws that are intended to protect animals, including both wildlife law and welfare laws.

Professor Nicholas Fromherz of the Global Law Alliance presenting at the wildlife workshop on April 15, 2022.Professor Nicholas Fromherz, Lewis & Clark Law Adjunct Professor and GLA’s Latin American Program Director, followed these presentations by offering thoughts on a complementary pathway—the rights of nature—with the potential to transcend a narrow legal framing of “wildlife.” He implored participants to think creatively about legal horizons and the opportunities provided by the development and adoption of a rights of nature approach to wildlife protection. Such an approach was recently embraced by Ecuador’s Constitutional Court, providing a ground-breaking example of how to reframe legal constructs to expand protections for wild animals.

Workshop participants then discussed in small groups the limitations and potential of the law as it is currently established and the possibilities for systemic legal reform in light of the extinction crisis and growing awareness and recognition of the need for a One Health approach to wildlife protection.

Importantly, all participants agreed that systemic legal reform must run in parallel with policy efforts to support a just transition away from wildlife exploitation. Inspired by the Workshop, students are excited to put these principles into practice to improve protections for wild animals. Thank you to Professor Wyatt for facilitating this engaging discussion and sharing your expertise with our students, and to the United Kingdom Arts and Humanities Research Council funding for making it possible.


The Center for Animal Law Studies and Environmental Law Program at Lewis & Clark Law School created the Global Law Alliance for Animals and the Environment (Global Law Alliance) as champions for wild animals and wild spaces across the globe.

The Center for Animal Law Studies

The Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) was founded in 2008 with a mission to educate the next generation of animal law advocates and advance animal protection through the law. With vision and bold risk-taking, CALS has since developed into a world-renowned animal law epicenter, with the most comprehensive animal law curriculum offered anywhere. In addition, CALS is the only program that offers two advanced legal degrees in animal law (an LLM degree and a Master of Studies degree for non-lawyers, both degrees are offered in person and online) and three Animal Law Clinics. CALS’ Alumni-in Action from more than 20 countries are advancing legal protections and making a difference in the lives of animals around the world.

The Environmental, Natural Resources, and Energy Law Program

Lewis & Clark Law School’s Environmental, Natural Resources, and Energy Law program is number one in the country according to the U.S. News and World Report rankings and has occupied a top slot in the US News rankings for some 25 years. Founded in 1970, the same year of the first Earth Day and the launch of major federal environmental legislation, the program is celebrating its 50th year in 2020. The program offers over 45 courses in environmental law, including two clinics, the Global Law Alliance and a domestic litigation clinic, Earthrise Law Center, and houses the Green Energy Institute which works to further the transition to a 100% renewable energy grid. It offers two two certificates for JDs focusing on environmental issues and energy issues and also offers a LLM degree and a Master of Studies degree for non-lawyers (both of which can be completed on campus or online).