Study launched on reducing demand for illegal wildlife products

This report was originally posted on the TRAFFIC website here.

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A new study investigating effective approaches for changing the behaviour of consumers of illegal wildlife products was launched today, to support global efforts to suppress the demand that fuels wildlife crime.

Reducing demand for illegal wildlife products is the outcome of comprehensive and innovative research into this challenging field, commissioned by Defra in 2014. It was carried out by experts from TRAFFIC, WWFImperial College Business School and the Oxford Martin Programme on Illegal Wildlife Trade.

The publication of the Defra-funded report comes exactly one month ahead of the fourth international Illegal Wildlife Trade conference to be staged in London. The Demand Reduction report can be read on Defra’s website.

The study forms part of the UK government’s commitment to “Eradicate the Market” made at the Hanoi Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in November 2016.

The report includes a scoping study, mapping demand reduction initiatives delivered by non-governmental organisations, governments and others in relation to a range of endangered species and markets; primary research to test innovative methods in “understanding demand”, and identifying inhibitors, facilitators and motivators for the consumption of elephant and rhino products; and an evidence and literature review, exploring Chinese and Vietnamese language literature on what works and what does not in influencing purchasing preferences, consumer choice and buyer behaviour. One important novelty of the report is the focus on exploring research methods, case studies and examples from other sectors beyond conservation, and examining ways to bring insights from these sectors into efforts to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.

The authors make a number of recommendations for those designing, developing and delivering demand reduction initiatives and associated behaviour change interventions:

  • Employ an evidence-based and insight-led approach to producing effective, targeted interventions;
  • Ensure that initiatives have a foundation in behavioural science, so that they use efficient and effective approaches to influence consumer choice;
  • Consider employing new approaches from luxury brand marketing, consumer research and other fields when conducting research to understand demand for wildlife products;
  • Increase efforts to share findings, harmonise collection protocols and pool data between implementing organisations;
  • Ensure government buy-in and multi-stakeholder partnerships as part of a Twin-Track Approach: track one using mechanisms to impose a societal control or restrict consumer choice; track two using messaging and influencers to shape individual motivation;
  • Mainstream demand reduction action where possible (e.g. relate activities and messaging to wider issues, rather than just those focused on natural resource use/conservation), and explore whether it can be embedded within existing culturally appropriate / context specific communications;
  • Employ creative communications and make lateral connections;
  • Understand the barriers to changing behaviour, and ensure that these are removed and that direct benefits of adopting the new behaviour are made clear to the target audience;
  • Adopt multiple ways of reaching the target audience to reinforce the message over time;
  • Adopt an iterative (adaptive) approach to demand reduction intervention design and implementation, including ongoing monitoring and evaluation of intervention effectiveness.

The outcomes from the comprehensive study are now informing the delivery of a larger report and Guidance under Decisions 17.47/8 and Res.Conf 17.4, for Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) on demand reduction efforts.

The CITES Secretariat recently circulated a questionnaire to all Parties associated with this, following the earlier circulation of material prepared by TRAFFIC on this topic.

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