How to curb China's illegal wildlife trade, from tiger bones to totoaba bladders
Michael ’t Sas-Rolfes, a doctoral researcher at the University of Oxford who toured tiger farms at the invitation of the Chinese government in 2007, was not surprised. “The only part of this that was completely unexpected for me was the timing,” he says. “The Chinese focus has always been more on conserving a species as a resource, not on the western focus of conserving a species in its habitat.” Even as western countries have pushed for blanket bans on certain wildlife products, he continues, demand for those products in certain quarters of Asia has not fallen. Instead, illegal trade and the profits to be made from it have increased. “I’m hoping that China’s move may serve as a bit of a wakeup call that the ‘just say no’ approach doesn’t work,” Sas-Rolfes says. “The conversation on drugs has evolved into something more sophisticated – smoking pot is not the same as shooting up with heroin. And we need to apply the same nuanced, evidence-based thinking to wildlife trade,” he adds.
via The Independent
Published: Nov 2018 | Categories: Media Coverage


‘Evidence failure’ blights fight against illegal wildlife trade
With consumption driving the illegal trade, efforts to reduce demand clearly have a big role to play in saving the rhinos. But when researchers assessed nine of these interventions last year they found that only one — by TRAFFIC — had been adequately designed. This is just one example of an ‘evidence failure’ that researchers say is thwarting efforts to stop the illegal trade in wild animals and plants, leading to inadequate, unethical and counterproductive policies and other interventions.
via Under the Banyan
Published: Nov 2018 | Categories: Media Coverage


Cocaine of the sea, ‘epic failure’ and how following the money can limit illegal wildlife trade
It has been called "cocaine of the sea" — the dried swim bladder of the totoaba fish, which when smuggled from Mexico to China sells for US$40,000 to $60,000 per kilogram thanks to its supposed medicinal qualities. While the fish is critically endangered as a result, the situation of another animal that gets caught in totoaba nets is even more dire. The illicit trade has driven the world’s smallest marine mammal — a kind of porpoise called a vaquita — to almost certain extinction.
via Earth Journalism Network
Published: Nov 2018 | Categories: Media Coverage


Illegal wildlife trade’s ‘dirty money’ targeted by big banks
A broad alliance of 30 global banks and financial institutions have pledged to stop wildlife trafficking by pressuring the pocketbooks of criminal syndicates. Tracking the flow of “dirty money” and tackling corruption emerged as the missing elements in reducing the soaring illegal wildlife trade at a major conference last week in London. A briefing note published this year by the Oxford Martin Programme on the Illegal Wildlife Trade points to how combating efforts could be improved. Specifically, it notes that fish, timber and plants are all trafficked in much greater volumes than higher-profile species such as elephants or rhinos. It warns of an “over-emphasis on militarised and enforcement-first approaches [that] risks eroding trust between local people and conservation staff.” One of the program’s researchers, Diogo Verissimo, said it was simpler for governments to demonstrate action by putting money into law enforcement.
via Mongabay
Published: Nov 2018 | Categories: Media Coverage


Consumer focus – Tackling illegal wildlife trade by reducing demand
Since 2002, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been working to stem poaching, illegal trade and consumption of marine turtles on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua. I’m looking forward to presenting my findings at ‘Evidence to Action: Research to Address the Illegal Wildlife Trade’ and, in particular, sharing what we’ve learned – and learning from others – when we attend next month’s Illegal Wildlife Trade conference in London.
via Fauna & Flore International
Published: Nov 2018 | Categories: Media Coverage


Illegal wildlife trade endangers plants — but few are listening
Government officials from around the world will meet in London this week to develop action plans to combat the illegal trade of pangolin scales, elephant ivory, and rhino horn, but some of the world’s most heavily trafficked wildlife – plants - won’t be discussed. This is despite calls from across the conservation field, including IUCN, to give plants a voice.
via IUCN News
Published: Nov 2018 | Categories: Blogs & Opinions


London Conference to Tackle Illegal Wildlife Trade
A National Geographic investigative reporter will be a key speaker at a high level conference in London this evening, convened to address the illegal wildlife trade. The event will serve as a prelude to a major Heads of Government conference hosted by the UK Government on 11-12 October, which aims to build coalitions between sectors, such as researchers, NGOs, civil society (including the media) and governments in order to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.
via National Geographic
Published: Nov 2018 | Categories: Media Coverage


Researchers Explore Ways to Bring Attention to and Inform Policy on the Illegal Wildlife Trade
More than 250 scientists, researchers, environmental experts, practitioners and reporters gathered in London this week ahead of a UK-sponsored conference on the illegal wildlife trade to talk about the threat trafficking poses to biodiversity. Their aim was to discuss ways that science and evidence-based studies can and should inform policies aimed at curbing the illegal trafficking of species, a trade worth an estimated $23 billion annually, according to Dominic Jermey, head of the Zoological Society of London, which hosted the conference.
via Earth Journalism Network
Published: Nov 2018 | Categories: Media Coverage


To What Extent Is Social Marketing Used in Demand Reduction Campaigns for Illegal Wildlife
The illegal wildlife trade is a global threat to biodiversity as well as to public health and good governance. As legislation and law enforcement have been insufficient to protect many wildlife species, conservationists are increasingly focused on campaigns to help reduce demand for wildlife products. Social marketing is increasingly being used to support biodiversity conservation efforts, but the extent of its use has seldom been researched. Based on interviews with conservation practitioners, we assess the extent to which social marketing has been used in demand reduction campaign design. We do this by investigating the level to which demand reduction campaigns met the benchmarks defined by the UK’s National Social Marketing Centre. We focus on rhino horn and elephant ivory, two high-profile products in the illegal wildlife trade and in China and Vietnam given their role as key consumer countries. We also investigate how conservation practitioners view the opportunities and challenges of using social marketing in the context of reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife products. Our findings highlight that there are substantial gaps between best practice in social marketing and current practices in the design of demand reduction campaigns. However, several elements of social marketing are widely utilized and a platform exists from which to build more comprehensive behavioral influence campaigns in future. In terms of future needs, practitioners highlighted the need for independent consumer research upon which to build target audience insights, a focus on broader audience segments beyond the product consumers, and the improvement of collaborations across institutions.
Greenfield, S., & Veríssimo, D. (2018). To What Extent Is Social Marketing Used in Demand Reduction Campaigns for Illegal Wildlife Products? Insights From Elephant Ivory and Rhino Horn. Social Marketing Quarterly. https://doi.org/10.1177/1524500418813543
Published: Nov 2018 | Categories: Research Articles


rcites: An R package to access the CITES Speciesplus database - Open Access
The conservation of biodiversity is a complex problem strongly tight to political actions. CITES is a multilateral environmental agreement that was established in 1975 and aims to monitor and regulate the trade of endangered species so that their trade does not threaten the survival of the species in the wild. In 2013, the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre and the CITES Secretariat created Speciesplus, a comprehensive database of not only CITES listed species and their regulation status within CITES but also the species’ status within the EU legislation and the species’ status within the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. Speciesplus is publicly available at https://speciesplus.net. With rcites we provide an R client to the Speciesplus/CITES Checklist API, giving access to the Speciesplus database. The ability to query the database will improve the efficiency and reproducibility of biodiversity conservation analysis workflows.
Geschke et al., (2018). rcites: An R package to access the CITES Speciesplus database. Journal of Open Source Software, 3(31), 1091, https://doi.org/10.21105/joss.01091
Categories: Useful Links


Documenting and tackling the illegal wildlife trade: change and continuity over 40 years
In October 2018 the UK government hosts a major international governmental conference on tackling the illegal wildlife trade, the latest in a series that it initiated in 2014 with a conference attended by representatives of 50 countries (UK Government, 2014).This emphasis on illegal wildlife trade as a priority conservation issue is very welcome. The trade is not, however, a new problem. Looking back to past experiences and attempts to address such trade can provide valuable insights for current policy and practice. To mark and contribute to the deliberations of the October 2018 London conference we have compiled 16 of these articles into a virtual issue (https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/oryx/virtual-issues), illustrating both the persistent and changing themes in illegal wildlife trade research as represented in Oryx from the 1960s to the present day.
Milner-Gulland, E. (2018). Documenting and tackling the illegal wildlife trade: Change and continuity over 40 years. Oryx, 52(4), 597-598. doi:10.1017/S0030605318001047
Published: Sep 2018 | Categories: Research Articles


Reducing demand for illegal wildlife products
The illegal trade in wildlife is a substantial threat to the survival of many species. Past efforts to address this trade have been primarily focused on law enforcement to prevent the poaching and illegal harvest of animals and plants, and trafficking of their parts, products and derivatives along trade routes. However, a complementary effort is also required to address demand amongst consumers. This need has been recognised by governments, international organisations, NGOs and others, through several highlevel declarations and commitments to action. Stakeholders now have an imperative to understand and apply the most effective and efficient strategic approaches through which to change consumer choice, and shift purchasing preference and buyer behaviour away from illegal wildlife products. Within this context, the UK government commissioned and funded a research project to identify insights into what could be effective in changing illegal wildlife product consumer behaviour. The project has been implemented by a consortium of organisations, featuring TRAFFIC, WWF, Imperial College London and the University of Oxford.
Burgess G., Zain S., Milner-Gulland E.J., Eisingerich A. B., Sharif V., Ibbett H., Olmedo Castro A., Sohl H. 2018. Reducing demand for illegal wildlife products: Research analysis on strategies to change illegal wildlife product consumer behaviour.
Published: Sep 2018 | Categories: Reports
Reducing demand for illegal wildlife products


Qualitative Impact Evaluation of a Social Marketing Campaign for Conservation
Social marketing campaigns use marketing techniques to influence human behavior for the greater social good. In conservation, social marketing campaigns have been used to influence behavior for the benefit of biodiversity as well as society. However, there are few evaluations of their effectiveness. We used General Elimination Methodology, a theory‐driven qualitative evaluation method, to assess the long‐term impacts of a social marketing campaign on human behavior and biodiversity. We evaluated a 1998 Rare Pride Campaign on the island of Bonaire, designed to increase the population of the lora (Amazona barbadensis), a threatened parrot species. To evaluate the campaigns impacts, we interviewed a range of stakeholder groups to understand their perceptions of the drivers of the changes in the lora population over time. We used this data to develop an overall Theory of Change to explain changes in the lora population by looking at the overlap in hypotheses within and between stakeholder groups. We then triangulated that Theory of Change with evidence from government reports, peer‐reviewed literature, and newspapers. Our results suggest that the observed increase in the lora population can be largely attributed to a decrease in illegal poaching of loras and an associated decrease in local demand for pet loras. The decreases in both poaching and demand have likely been driven by a combination of law enforcement, social marketing campaigns (including the Rare campaign), and environmental education in schools. General Elimination Methodology proved to be an illuminating post‐hoc evaluation method for understanding the complexity around how multiple interventions have influenced conservation outcomes over time. There is a need for evidence‐based evaluations of social marketing interventions to ensure that limited resources are spent wisely. Here we present a new approach for evaluating the influences of social marketing campaigns on both human behavior and conservation outcomes.
Salazar, G., Mills, M., & Veríssimo, D. (2018). Qualitative Impact Evaluation of a Social Marketing Campaign for Conservation. Conservation Biology.
Published: Sep 2018 | Categories: Research Articles


Evidence to Action Briefing Note
Tools and expertise to improve the evidence base for national and international Illegal Wildlife Trade policy already exist but are underutilised. Tapping into these resources would produce substantive benefits for wildlife conservation and associated sectors, enabling governments to better meet their obligations under the Sustainable Development Goals and international biodiversity conventions. This can be achieved through enhanced funding support for inter-sectoral research collaborations, engaging researchers in priority setting and programme design, increasing developing country research capacity and engaging researchers and community voices in policy processes. This briefing, addressed to policy makers and practitioners, is part of the 2018 Evidence to Action: Research to Address Illegal Wildlife Trade event programme, organised by five of the UK’s most active IWT research institutions, to support the London 2018 IWT Conference.
Milner-Gulland, E.J., Cugniere, L., Hinsley, A., Phelps, J., ‘t Sas-Rolfes, M., Verissimo, D. (2018) Evidence to Action: Research to address the illegal wildlife trade. Briefing note to policy-makers and practitioners.
Published: Sep 2018 | Categories: Briefing Notes
Evidence to Action_IWT18_Briefing Note


Demography and social dynamics of an African elephant population 35 years after reintroduction as juveniles
Given their vulnerability to local extinction, the reintroduction of megafauna species (often long‐lived, ecologically influential and highly social) is an increasingly relevant conservation intervention. Studies that evaluate past megafauna reintroductions are both critical and rare. Between 1981 and 1996, 12 cohorts of a total of 200 juvenile (10 years old) composed 30% of the population in 2016. The population remains relatively young and forecasts suggest high potential for sustained growth over the next decade. The first calf was born to a reintroduced female in 1990 and since then mother–calf units have gradually developed into semi‐independent multi‐generation families (7–15 individuals in size in 2016). The size of observed cow–calf groups was highly variable (mean = 21.4 individuals, range: 7–109), with repeat observation of individual collared females revealing fusion and fission among different family groups through time, as is typical of more natural elephant populations. Synthesis and applications. From an unusual founder population of reintroduced juvenile elephants, we document rapid population growth and the development of normal sociality over 35 years. While this may be an encouragement for megaherbivore reintroductions in general, the potential for exponential population growth must be carefully considered when ecologically influential species are introduced to closed systems. Our study provides key long‐term insights for elephant translocations, which are becoming increasingly necessary due to overpopulation in some areas and local extinction in others.
Kuiper TR, Druce DJ, Druce HC. Demography and social dynamics of an African elephant population 35 years after reintroduction as juveniles. J Appl Ecol. 2018;55:2898–2907. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.13199
Published: Jun 2018 | Categories: Research Articles


Using consumer preferences to characterize the trade of wild‐collected ornamental orchids in China (Open Access)
Overexploitation of wildlife for trade threatens taxa globally. Interest in demand‐side approaches to address this problem has grown but understanding of how consumer preferences shape demand remains limited. To quantify the role of consumer preferences for wild orchids in China's horticultural market, we used conjoint analysis to determine which attributes are preferred by orchid owners and nonowners in two socioeconomically contrasting areas of South China. Across all respondents, price was the most important attribute followed by flower color. While Xishuangbanna participants exhibited a slight preference for wild over cultivated plants, origin (wild/cultivated) was of minimal importance. We also measured awareness of orchid import regulations. Most did not recognize the CITES logo, and knowledge of import laws was significantly lower in Hong Kong than in Xishuangbanna. Our findings suggest that trade in wild ornamental orchids in South China is supply‐driven, and strengthened regulations might be effective in reducing overexploitation.
Williams SJ, Gale SW, Hinsley A, Gao J, St. John FAV. Using consumer preferences to characterize the trade of wild‐collected ornamental orchids in China. Conservation Letters. 2018;11:e12569. https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12569
Published: May 2018 | Categories: Research Articles


Automated Discovery of Internet Censorship by Web Crawling
Censorship of the Internet is widespread around the world. As access to the web becomes increasingly ubiquitous, filtering of this resource becomes more pervasive. Transparency about specific content that citizens are denied access to is atypical. To counter this, numerous techniques for maintaining URL filter lists have been proposed by various individuals and organisations that aim to empirical data on censorship for benefit of the public and wider censorship research community. We present a new approach for discovering filtered domains in different countries. This method is fully automated and requires no human interaction. The system uses web crawling techniques to traverse between filtered sites and implements a robust method for determining if a domain is filtered. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the approach by running experiments to search for filtered content in four different censorship regimes. Our results show that we perform better than the current state of the art and have built domain filter lists an order of magnitude larger than the most widely available public lists as of Jan 2018. Further, we build a dataset mapping the interlinking nature of blocked content between domains and exhibit the tightly networked nature of censored web resources.
Darer, A., Farnan, O., & Wright, J. (2018, May). Automated Discovery of Internet Censorship by Web Crawling. In Proceedings of the 10th ACM Conference on Web Science (pp. 195-204). ACM. DOI: 10.1145/3201064.3201091
Published: Apr 2018 | Categories: Research Articles


On Identifying Anomalies in Tor Usage with Applications in Detecting Internet Censorship
We develop a means to detect ongoing per-country anomalies in the daily usage metrics of the Tor anonymous communication network, and demonstrate the applicability of this technique to identifying likely periods of internet censorship and related events. The presented approach identifies contiguous anomalous periods, rather than daily spikes or drops, and allows anomalies to be ranked according to deviation from expected behaviour. The developed method is implemented as a running tool, with outputs published daily by mailing list. This list highlights per-country anomalous Tor usage, and produces a daily ranking of countries according to the level of detected anomalous behaviour. This list has been active since August 2016, and is in use by a number of individuals, academics, and NGOs as an early warning system for potential censorship events. We focus on Tor, however the presented approach is more generally applicable to usage data of other services, both individually and in combination. We demonstrate that combining multiple data sources allows more specific identification of likely Tor blocking events. We demonstrate the our approach in comparison to existing anomaly detection tools, and against both known historical internet censorship events and synthetic datasets. Finally, we detail a number of significant recent anomalous events and behaviours identified by our tool.
Wright, J., Darer, A., & Farnan, O. (2018, May). On Identifying Anomalies in Tor Usage with Applications in Detecting Internet Censorship. In Proceedings of the 10th ACM Conference on Web Science (pp. 87-96). ACM. DOI: 10.1145/3201064.3201093
Published: Apr 2018 | Categories: Research Articles


Exploring saiga horn consumption in Singapore
The Critically Endangered saiga antelope Saiga tatarica faces an uncertain future, with populations dwindling from epidemics in its range countries, and ongoing demand for its horns in the traditional Chinese medicine trade. Despite this, little is known about the consumers that drive domestic demand. Investigation into consumption prevalence and consumer demographics, knowledge and motivations has shown that awareness of conservation issues and regulations was uniformly low. Awareness raising may have an effect in reducing consumer demand in Singapore. However, given the exploratory nature of this study, it is best used to guide and inform future research underlying behavioural change interventions in a relatively understudied but important consumer group, Chinese Singaporeans.
Theng, M., Glikman, J. A., and Milner-Gulland, E.J. 2018. Exploring saiga horn consumption in Singapore. Oryx, p. 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0030605317001624
Published: Mar 2018 | Categories: Research Articles


Platform Criminalism: The 'Last-Mile' Geography of the Darknet Market Supply Chain
Does recent growth of darknet markets signify a slow reorganisation of the illicit drug trade? Where are darknet markets situated in the global drug supply chain? In principle, these platforms allow producers to sell directly to end users, bypassing traditional trafficking routes. And yet, there is evidence that many offerings originate from a small number of highly active consumer countries, rather than from countries that are primarily known for drug production. In a large-scale empirical study, we determine the darknet trading geography of three plant-based drugs across four of the largest darknet markets, and compare it to the global footprint of production and consumption for these drugs. We present strong evidence that cannabis and cocaine vendors are primarily located in a small number of consumer countries, rather than producer countries, suggesting that darknet trading happens at the 'last mile', possibly leaving old trafficking routes intact. A model to explain trading volumes of opiates is inconclusive. We cannot find evidence for significant production-side offerings across any of the drug types or marketplaces. Our evidence further suggests that the geography of darknet market trades is primarily driven by existing consumer demand, rather than new demand fostered by individual markets.
Dittus, M., Wright, J., Graham, M. (2018). Platform Criminalism: The 'Last-Mile' Geography of the Darknet Market Supply Chain. WWW '18 Proceedings of the 2018 World Wide Web Conference, 277-286. doi:10.1145/3178876.3186094
Published: Mar 2018 | Categories: Research Articles


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