Seminar: Chinese seafood consumption and trade



In this seminar, Michael Fabinyi will present an overview of his ongoing research on Chinese seafood consumption, focusing on illegal marine wildlife. Based on extensive fieldwork in both China and countries where marine wildlife is sourced, his talk will present: the drivers of consumption of high value marine wildlife in China, the nature of the ‘grey trade’ to China through Hong Kong and Vietnam, the social and environmental effects of trade in marine wildlife in source countries such as the Philippines, and options to improve governance of this trade.

Michael Fabinyi is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). He is an anthropologist with research interests in coastal livelihoods, the role of China in global fisheries, and the social aspects of marine resource governance. He has written a book and more than thirty peer-reviewed articles, and from 2012-2017 was the holder of a Society in Science – Branco Weiss Fellowship. Before moving to UTS in 2016 he was based for seven years at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. He has held visiting appointments at Peking University (2012-13), WorldFish (2015), and is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Palawan State University, Philippines.

Trade Off – Annual Conservation Symposium

The world is currently dealing with an unprecedented rise in illegal wildlife trade. It is one of the greatest direct threats to the future of many of the world’s most iconic species. The illegal wildlife trade affects thousands of species that are often already highly threatened and in danger of extinction.

Chester Zoo is putting the spotlight on this lucrative international crime to highlight the devastating impact it’s having on threatened species, what’s being done to prevent it and how we can all help to make a difference.

The one-day symposium will feature inspiring talks from experts working around the world, including Nafeesa Esmail and Dr Amy Hinsley.


Seminar: Investigative Wildlife Trade


The Oxford Martin Programme on the Illegal Wildlife Trade hosted a special seminar by Karl Ammann at the University of Oxford.

Karl Ammann, a conservationist and wildlife photographer, presented some of his investigative work on the illegal wildlife trade. Karl has been working in this field for 20+ years and produced various documentaries on a range of species and products traded internationally, highlighting the lack (and need) of concrete enforcement action. Most of these detailed investigations have involved apes exported from the Congo Basin to China. Richard Hargreaves, a UK based lawyer will also joined him to shed light on some of the legal aspects of these investigations.






Tackling over-collection of wild plants – is horticulture a conservation problem or solution?

This symposium was held at the 2017 ICCB conference and was organised by Dr Lauren Gardiner (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) and Dr Amy Hinsley.

Although much conservation attention is paid to charismatic megafauna, one in five of the world’s almost 400,000 plant species is threatened with extinction. Of those, IUCN data shows that more than 20% are directly threatened by collection from the wild for subsistence use or trade, including for food, building materials, medicine and as ornamental plants. Horticultural techniques that have been developed over thousands of years to grow crop plants and living collections in botanical gardens have long contributed to the ex situ conservation of plants around the world. Yet horticulture can also be a threat: many rare plant species have been collected to extinction for the horticultural trade, and encouraging propagation of useful plants is an often suggested solution to over-collection, but one that may actually increase wild-collection.

This symposium brought together experts from research and practice to present experiences and viewpoints, from different disciplines, of the role of horticulture in preventing over-collection of wild plants and securing their representation in ex situ collections. Speakers included anthropologists working on sustainability of subsistence use, botanists and conservationists who specialise in different groups of threatened plants, as well as practitioners who work closely with horticultural traders and corporations using wild plant material.

Symposia topics:

  • Are private horticultural collections species’ saviours or drivers of extinction?
  • Ex situ conservation of succulent plants: examining tensions in horticulture.
  • Seed banking and horticulture: complementary tools for the conservation, restoration, and increased genetic diversity of wild plants.
  • Horticulture as a strategy for in situ and ex situ orchid diversity conservation in the Andes.
  • Can cultivation of the economically valuable Xate palm take pressure off its wild populations?
  • Horticultural propagation versus wild collection for commercially viable yields.

Learning from across the social sciences to inform evidence-based demand reduction strategies

This symposium was held at the 2017 ICCB conference and was organised by Dr Diogo Veríssimo (John Hopkins University) and Professor EJ Milner-Gulland.

The unsustainable trade in wildlife is increasingly recognised a key threat to biodiversity. Efforts to mitigate the impacts of this trade have historically focused on curtailing supply through regulation and enforcement. While the extent of success of such measures is a matter of debate, a consensus has emerged that without a focus on the demand side of the trade, any attempt to limit it to a sustainable level will fail in the long run. As influencing demand for wildlife products entails understanding and changing human behaviour and societal norms, the methods needed are within the realm of the social sciences. This can be a barrier to conservationists, who may not be aware of the potential for different fields to contribute to demand reduction research and intervention.

This Symposium brought together professionals from across the social sciences to showcase approaches used in their fields to influence human behaviours. The speakers covered academic fields such as psychology and economics, whose goal is to better understand human decisions, as well as applied fields such as social marketing, that have a wealth of knowledge on how to design, implement and evaluate behaviour change interventions. By bringing together researchers and practitioners in fields that are still not well integrated within conservation science, this symposium fostered a wider adoption of social science among those working to manage demand for wildlife products. The symposium was also aimed at those interested to influence human behaviour or better integrate social science into their research.

Symposia topics:

  • Reducing demand for wildlife: how are we doing?
  • Using methods from economics to understand consumer preferences for wildlife.
  • Applying social marketing to reducing demand for wildlife – three campaigns experiences.
  • Designing positive bear bile reduction campaigns for Chinese tourists.
  • Conservation criminology approaches for managing demand for wildlife products.

Official Programme Launch

The new research programme at the Oxford Martin School to tackle the multi-billion dollar trade in illegal and unsustainable wildlife products, brings together academics from conservation science, social policy and cybersecurity to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.

The first research hub of its kind focused on this issue, the Oxford Martin Programme on the Illegal Wildlife Trade will develop new approaches to addressing the trade in illegal products, which is fuelled by rising wealth and social change and facilitated by the growth of the internet. Focusing on consumer behaviour and motivations, the team will collaborate with governments and conservation organisations on the ground to create, test, implement and evaluate the impact of real-world intervention strategies.

Achim Steiner, Director of the Oxford Martin School, said: “I’m delighted to welcome the start of this programme, which tackles one of our greatest conservation challenges. The situation is critical, and the problem is complex in terms of both its ecological and economic impacts. The approach that this team brings is a truly innovative one, and I’m sure that their multi-disciplinary strategy will help to bring the insights and solutions that this issue so urgently needs.”

Enabled by a £1 million grant from the School, the programme will tackle a critical threat to biodiversity. The trade in illegal wildlife products is currently estimated to be worth up to $10 billion annually, and continues to grow. Casualties include:

  • The western black rhino, which was officially declared extinct in 2011
  • Tanzania’s elephant population, which declined by 60% between 2009 and 2014, due to ivory poaching
  • Asian black bears, which have declined globally by nearly 50% due to trade in their bile and paws
  • China’s pangolins, down by an estimated 94% due to trade for consumption

Compounding the issue is its complexity: legality is often ambiguous and regulation efforts are frequently hampered by corruption. And as species become scarcer, their rarity can make them even more attractive, increasing demand even further.

Rapid economic development has led to a rise in disposable income in many Asian countries, increasing the demand for wildlife products. Widespread internet connectivity, the advent of the ‘dark web’, and advances in transportation mean trading can take place quickly and easily, and on a huge scale. In a recent six week investigation of 280 websites in 16 countries, $10 million worth of online trade in CITES-listed species was found by an international NGO.

“It is possible for a pangolin to be hunted in the forest of Gabon one day, and sold in a wildlife market in Guangzhou the next,” said Programme Co-Director Professor E.J. Milner-Gulland. “This interconnectedness facilitates and reinforces the rapid, global exchange of information so that trade in wildlife is now possible on a scale, and at a speed, that is unprecedented. Any exploitable species is now at risk.

“Tackling this issue requires a new research approach that takes stock of the complexity of the problem and the pace of developments, and integrates with the needs of practitioners in the real world.”

Despite recognition of the scale and urgency of the problem, current research on the wildlife trade is sparse and often uncoordinated, and conservation has tended to focus on controlling illegal poaching. Recently, there has been recognition of the importance of understanding demand for wildlife products, but there is still limited evidence on what works to change consumer behaviour. The team will focus on wildlife product sales in Asia, with an emphasis on luxury and medicinal uses, and say the very developments that are driving increased sales – social change and new technology – will also be key to tackling the problem.

Programme Co-Director Joss Wright said: “Many newly wealthy people in these markets are young and spend a lot of time online. They may be more interested in high-end lifestyle brands and celebrity culture than traditional wildlife products, and social media means they will also be more exposed to environmental and ethical campaigning.

“Developments in cyber security also offer hope: traders might be increasingly sophisticated in their use of the web, but there’s also a great deal of scope for new methods of law enforcement.”

Crucial to success, the team say, is providing the evidence and approaches which governments, NGOs and international law enforcement agencies can use to support large-scale action.

“We have a real vacuum here when it comes to data and case studies,” said Programme Co-Director Professor Paul Montgomery. “Interventions in consumer behaviour need to be based on solid evidence, thoroughly tested and then monitored for effectiveness. The danger otherwise is that huge amounts of money and time will be spent, with little impact in return.”


You may download the Programme Launch Report here.

Tackling wildlife crime

Professor Milner-Gulland spoke about her research on tackling wildlife crime, both through working with local people living around Protected Areas in Africa, and changing consumers’ attitudes to wildlife purchases in Asia.








Understanding consumer demand in the wildlife trade 

Dr Amy Hinsley discussed the importance of studying consumer demand in the wildlife trade and various methods that can be used for understanding it. In her talk, Amy used case studies of orchids and bear bile to illustrate these approaches.









Knowing what not to know: sharing and hiding information in digital societies 

Our societies are increasingly dependent on, and shaped by, our information technologies. We read, watch, communicate, interact, and monitor digitally, both as individuals and in our institutions.

As we document and store every conceivable facet of our lives we expose tensions between the availability of information and the freedoms that we enjoy. We rightly expect a level of personal privacy and freedom of expression while, equally justifiably, expecting transparency from our governments and businesses. In practice, we all too often see the reverse.

In this talk, Dr Joss Wright, Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, examined technologies that seek to assert, resist, or subvert control over information, and assessed the balance of the information we share as individuals and as a society. The talk explored technologies such as the ‘dark web’ and Bitcoin, that seek to resist traditional observation and control, and the new forms of control introduced by broad-scale gathering of personal data and the algorithms used to act on it.

By understanding the consequences of hiding and sharing information, and the technologies and policies that we use to do so, we take a necessary step towards consciously guiding the shape of the future societies that we wish to see.

You can watch a video recording of the event here.


2017 Wildlife Trade Symposium

Evolving Perspectives on the Demand for Illegal Wildlife Products, will share new ideas and approaches to better understand and address this challenge, discuss practical and pragmatic possibilities to move forward and bridge the gap between academia and practice. This three-day event is being co-hosted with generous support from San Diego Zoo Global and TRAFFIC.

The symposium will showcase case studies of best practice in understanding and addressing the illegal trade in wildlife products, with a particular focus on products used for medicinal value. Sharing new ideas and approaches for identifying consumers, changing consumer behaviour, and evaluating intervention impact.

This will be an opportunity for people from different backgrounds and institutions who share a common interest in addressing the illegal wildlife trade to connect with one another. This will facilitate learning, raise awareness of potential synergies and collaborations, and catalyse new initiatives and partnerships. The symposium will thereby provide a much-needed opportunity for people to work together more effectively.

More information