Bear farm in China

Case Study 1: Disentangling the interconnected legal and illegal market for bear bile products in China

Oxford Researcher: Dr Amy Hinsley

There is extensive debate over the use of legal, farmed wildlife products to reduce demand for wild products, and the case of bear bile farming in China has been particularly controversial. This case-study sought to better understand the current market for farmed and wild bear bile by carrying out in-depth research into the behaviour and motivations of the people who consume, sell, and prescribe bear bile in China. From 2018-2020, we used large-scale surveys with members of the public, interviews with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctors and pharmacy workers, and in-depth surveys with bear bile consumers to investigate their preferences for different products.

Specific project objectives included:

  • Finding out how many people use bear bile and why they use it, using information form consumers, doctors and vendors of bile in the main cities of four Chinese provinces. The open access paper was published in 2021:
    • Hinsley, A., Hu, S., Chen, H., Garshelis, D., Hoffmann, M., Lee, T.M., Moyle, B., Qiu, Y., Ruan, X., Wan, A.K.Y. and Zhou, J., 2021. Combining data from consumers and traditional medicine practitioners to provide a more complete picture of Chinese bear bile markets. People and Nature3(5), pp.1064-1077.
  • Understanding how and why people make the decision to ‘switch’ between wild, farmed and synthetic bear bile. The open access paper was published in 2022:
    • Hinsley, A., Wan, A.K.Y., Garshelis, D., Hoffmann, M., Hu, S., Lee, T.M., Meginnis, K., Moyle, B., Qiu, Y., Ruan, X. and Milner‐Gulland, E.J., 2022. Understanding why consumers in China switch between wild, farmed, and synthetic bear bile products. Conservation Biology36(3), p.e13895.
  • 2021 Public survey team

    2021 Public survey team

    An additional objective was added in early 2021, when we ran a follow-up project (funded by a DEFRA IWT Challenge Fund Rapid Response COVID-19 grant) to determine the best strategies for reducing illegal wildlife use in TCM post-COVID-19. Using our original study as a baseline, we looked at whether bear bile and other animal-based medicine consumption had changed during the COVID-19 pandemic in China, and held co-design workshops with consumers, TCM doctors and pharmacy workers to design evidence-based strategies to reduce demand for wild bear bile and other illegal wildlife-based medicines.

    • The main output was this paper, published in 2023, on methods to reduce demand for animal-based medicines in a post-COVID China: Hu, S., Liang, Z., Zhou, K., Veríssimo, D., Lee, T.M., Ruan, X. and Hinsley, A., 2023. Applying a co‐design approach with key stakeholders to design interventions to reduce illegal wildlife consumption. People and Nature5(4), pp.1234-1244.

Collaborators: Professor Tien Ming Lee (Sun Yat Sen University), Dr Mike Hoffman (IUCN SSC), Dr Xiangdong Ruan (Academy of Forest Inventory and Planning, National Forestry and Grassland Administration), Dr Dave Garshelis (IUCN SSC Bear Specialist Group), Mr Yingjie Qiu (China Association of TCM), Dr Brendan Moyle (Massey University)

Collaborating organisations: IUCN Bear Specialist GroupMassey UniversitySun Yat-Sen University,  , Academy of Forest Inventory and Planning, National Forestry and Grassland Administration, China Association of TCM

Thanks to the generous support of:

The Oxford Martin School and the DEFRA IWT Challenge Fund

Previous Case Studies

Case study 7: Tackling non-compliance in a small-scale fishery in Chile

Oxford Researcher: Rodrigo Oyanedel

Reducing non-compliance is key to sustaining the ecological, social and economic ecosystem services that natural resources provide. The impacts of non-compliance are especially acute in small-scale resource users, which usually involve poor management and limited enforcement capacity. In the context of fisheries, small-scale fishing non-compliance has been linked to the collapse of fishing stocks and habitat destruction. Dealing with non-compliance is thus necessary, particularly as small-scale communities are often highly dependent on natural resources as a source of livelihood. Reducing non-compliance in small-scale users is therefore a key challenge for conserving biodiversity worldwide while maintaining livelihood.

Small scale fishers in Chile

Small scale fishers in Chile

This is an issue of great importance in Chile. It is one of the largest producers of marine products in the world, with average landings of 3.1 million tonnes between 2005-2014. Fisheries management in Chile, although progressive in the application of innovative and science-based schemes, suffers from chronic non-compliance. Increasing compliance in Chile’s fisheries is urgent for improving the sustainability of the sector and maintaining small-scale fishers livelihoods. Furthermore, lessons from this case-study can be used to advance our understanding of non-compliance issues in small-scale resource use more broadly.

For this case-study, we have:

  • Reviewed different approaches and theories that could be used to understand non-compliance. We focused on how to integrate two main approaches for studying non-compliance. These are the actor based-approach that address the underlying motivations for people to comply or not with regulations and the opportunity-based approach that focuses on the role that the immediate environment plays in the performance of non-compliant behaviours. Read more here:
    • Oyanedel, RGelcich, SMilner-Gulland, EJA synthesis of (non-)compliance theories with applications to small-scale fisheries research and practiceFish Fish2020211120– 1134
  • We then looked in more depth into small-scale fishers’ motivations for compliance with different rules in the common-hake case study. Using a framework originally developed for forestry, we found that a diversity of motivations (normative, instrumental and legitimacy-based) helps to explain fishers’ varied responses to rules and regulations. Read more here:
    • Oyanedel, RGelcich, SMilner-Gulland, EJMotivations for (non-)compliance with conservation rules by small-scale resource usersConservation Letters202013:e12725.

  • We also developed a framework to assess and intervene in unsustainable natural resource supply-chain and markets. We showcased the utility of the framework in a data-limited small-scale common hake fishery. Our mixed-methodanalysis provided relevant, tailored management recommendations for improving sustainability. Tackling markets driving unsustainable wildlife use needs integrated approaches that bring together the diversity of factors affecting wildlife market dynamics. Read more here (email us for a copy):
    • Oyanedel R., Gelcich S., Milner-Gulland E.J. (2021) A framework for assessing and intervening in markets driving unsustainable wildlife use,
      Science of The Total Environment. Volume 792, 148328,
Framework for assessing and intervening in markets driving unsustainable wildlife use

Framework for assessing and intervening in markets driving unsustainable wildlife use

Currently, we are working on the development of a model to analyse enforcement data in Chile, to assess whether this source of information can provide insights into where illegality might concentrate, by disentangling co-founding factors and biases. We hope that this line of work will inform how to use this type of data in marine systems and beyond.

Blog coverage:

Collaborator: Stefan Gelcich

Collaborating organisation: Universidad Catolica de Chile

Case Study 2: Consumer relationships with ivory and rhino horn as luxury products in Vietnam

Oxford Researcher: Dr Vian Sharif

While in the past the main markets for rhino horn and ivory were thought to be in China, it is now widely traded in Viet Nam, with rhino horn having luxury status as a health tonic for wealthy businessmen, while both are sold as artefacts such as bangles and carved pieces. Despite substantial investment of time and resources into tackling the demand for wildlife products in Viet Nam, there is still a lack of evidence of the effectiveness of different approaches, and limited understanding of the demographics and motivations of consumers.

The case study fills this gap, answering the following questions, using methods from marketing research to understand particularly the role of wildlife products as luxury brands:

  • What is the prevalence of consumption of rhino horn and ivory within an urban affluent demographic group, and through online sales?
  • What relationships do people have with rhino horn and ivory, compared to other luxury products?
  • What specific interventions are best suited to changing consumer behaviour?

Collaborator: Dr Andreas Eisengerich

Collaborating organisation: Imperial College London

Saiga horn based TCM product

Case Study 3: A Cutting-Edge And Evidence-Based Behaviour Change Intervention on Saiga Horn In Singapore

Oxford Researchers: Dr Hunter Doughty, Dr Diogo Veríssimo, Dr Joss Wright

saiga horn based TCM product(TCM)

Saiga horn based TCM product used for fever and heatiness

A plethora of demand reduction efforts on wildlife trade products are carried out each year across the globe, however, shortcomings in interventions attempting to change consumers’ behaviour have been widely noted. In other disciplines like public health though, behaviour change interventions have been extensively implemented and offer useful insights for increasing the success of wildlife trade interventions. As such, we designed, implemented, and evaluated an evidence-based behaviour change intervention that applies robust approaches from outside of conservation science. We targeted saiga horn (marketed as líng yáng, 羚羊) usage in Singapore. The saiga (Saiga tatarica) is a Critically Endangered antelope from Central Asia whose horn is used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to treat fever and heatiness (a TCM state of illness with symptoms like cough). We accomplished this work through four stages:

  • By conducting extensive consumer research, we found that not only is saiga horn commonly used in Singapore, but many Chinese Singaporeans consider saiga horn the product option they use most often for treating fever and heatiness. Further findings showed that middle-aged Chinese Singaporean women were an ideal target for an intervention. Read more here (open access):
    • H Doughty, D Veríssimo, R Tan, JSH Lee, LR Carrasco, K Oliver, EJ Milner-Gulland (2019). Saiga horn user characteristics, motivations, and purchasing behaviour in Singapore. PLOS ONE. DOI: 1371/journal.pone.0222038.
  • By weaving together empirical evidence and human behaviour theory, we have not only identified key influences to leverage on our target audience – i.e., middle-aged Chinese Singaporean women, but also provided a reproducible process for others to design their own interventions. Read more here (open access):
    • H Doughty, K Oliver, D Veríssimo, JSH Lee, EJ Milner-Gulland (2021). Using theory and evidence to design behaviour change interventions for reducing unsustainable wildlife consumption. People and Nature.
  • By using cutting-edge techniques around targeted online advertisements, news coverage, and repeat message exposure, our intervention yielded widespread positive engagement among our target audience. Read more here (open access):
    • H Doughty, J Wright, D Veríssimo, JSH Lee, EJ Milner-Gulland (2020). Strategic advertising of online news articles as an intervention to influence wildlife product consumers. Conservation Science and Practice. DOI: 1111/csp2.272.
  • By conducting a multi-pronged evaluation, we revealed that our highly pervasive online intervention resulted in measurable offline behavioural impacts on middle-aged Chinese Singaporean women’s usage of saiga horn. Read more here (open access):
    • H Doughty, EJ Milner-Gulland, JSH Lee, K Oliver, LR Carrasco, D Veríssimo (2021). Evaluating a large-scale online behaviour change intervention aimed at wildlife product consumers in Singapore. DOI: 1371/journal.pone.0248144.
Hunter Doughty and her Singaporean research assistants

Dr Hunter Doughty and her Singaporean research assistants

Other outputs and mainstream outreach associated with this case study include:

  • Policy Brief – Resulting brief of Doughty et al. (2019) used for the 2019 CITES Conference of the Parties. DOI:10.31235/, (brief was discussed by delegates during saiga up-listing discourse)
  • Selected Blog Article – Harnessing online tools to save a species (2020),
  • Selected Talk – Using strategic advertising of online news articles to influence wildlife trade consumers (2020)

Collaborators: Dr Janice Lee, Dr Roman Carrasco, Dr Kathryn Oliver

Collaborating organisations: Nanyang Technological University, National University Singapore, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

cooked pangolin

Case Study 4: Exploring the effective use of celebrities in wildlife demand reduction: pangolin meat consumption reduction in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Oxford Researchers: Alegria Olmedo, Dr Dan Challender, Dr Diogo Veríssimo

Celebrities are often used to influence the public to change their awareness of, attitudes or behaviour towards illegal wildlife products. However, there is limited evidence about how effective this is, and there has been no evaluation of how to design such campaigns to maximise their impact. This case study seeks to provide an evidence base on how best to use celebrities to deliver messages on the illegal wildlife trade, drawing on empirical evidence from in conservation and other fields. This case study seeks to provide an evidence base on how best to use celebrities to deliver messages on the illegal wildlife trade, focusing on reducing pangolin meat consumption in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. For further details, see the Pangolin Project Briefing Document.

Specific project objectives include:

Consumption prevalence results of pangolin meat, scales and wine

Consumption prevalence results of pangolin meat, scales and wine elicited from the Unmatched Count Technique, compared to answers from direct questions

  • Identifying and characterising different pangolin meat consumer groups, determining potential alternatives for wild meat and whether celebrities can be effective influencers of this behaviour. Read more below (Open Access):
  • Developing a guide for decision-making in conservation interventions that seek to change consumption of illegally traded wildlife using celebrity endorsement; and applying this guide to develop a celebrity-endorsed intervention to reduce pangolin meat consumption in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Coming soon!
  • Examining the impact of commercial captive breeding of pangolins on pangolin conservation.
  • Investigating and documenting the online trade in pangolins focussing on Vietnam and China. Coming soon!

Other research outputs associated with this project:

And a selection of media outputs:

Collaborators: Thai Van Nguyen, Elizabeth Duthie, Tien Ming Lee, Carly Waterman

Collaborating organisations: Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, Fauna & Flora International, Sun-Yat Sen University, Zoological Society of London

Thanks to the generous support of:

The National Geographic Society and the Oxford Martin School

Case Study 5: Illegal Jaguar Trade in Latin America: An Evidence-Based Approach to Support Conservation Actions

Oxford Researcher: Melissa Arias, Dr Amy Hinsley, Yuhan Li

Wildlife skin wallets from Latin America

Wallets made of jaguar and other wildlife skin, found in Bolivia

In recent years, evidence suggesting an upsurge of trade in jaguar (Panthera onca) body parts to supply domestic and international markets has emerged throughout Latin America. Despite gaining significant media and policy attention, there is still limited understanding on the scale, drivers and characteristics of this threat to Latin America’s most iconic wild cat.

This case study aims to fill this knowledge gap and support decision-making to address jaguar trade by:

Other outputs associated with this case study as part of broader collaborations with other organizations and authors include:

  • Arias, M., & Lambert, A. E. (2019). Jaguar trafficking dynamics in Latin America: Analysis Report. Wildlife Conservation Society.
  • Arias, M. (2021). Illegal Trade in Jaguars (Panthera onca). A study in Support of CITES Decisions on Jaguars. Out soon!
  • Multi-lingual multi-platform investigations of online trade in jaguar parts. Wildlife Conservation Society. Out soon!

And a few blogs:

WT researcher_Jaguar trade in Latin America

Melissa Arias conducting jaguar trade data collection in Bolivia

Data collection was based in Mesoamerica and Bolivia, in order to distinguish regional differences in the jaguar trade chain and market dynamics. Bringing together theories and methodologies from the social and natural sciences, including direct and indirect questioning techniques, interviews, online trade surveys, and literature reviews, this research will provide a comprehensive understanding of jaguar trade while also providing insights on the role of evidence within illegal wildlife trade.

Collaborating organisations: Wildlife Conservation Society Mesoamerica, San Diego Zoo, Asociación Boliviana para la Investigación y Conservación de Ecosistemas Andino‐Amazónicos (ACEAA), Colección Boliviana de Fauna

Thanks to the generous support of the:

Secretaría de Educación Superior, Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación (SENESCYT), Wildlife Conservation Society Christensen Conservation Leaders Scholarship, Wildlife Conservation Network, Society of Conservation Biology Rufford Foundation, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, St. Cross College, University of Oxford, and the Society of American Mammalogists.

Case study 6: The reliability and conservation value of ranger-collected data on elephant poaching in Zimbabwe

Oxford Researcher: Dr Timothy Kuiper

Collecting and evaluating baseline ecological and social data is central to evidence-based management of natural resources. Monitoring data may, however, be biased and imprecise; and monitoring results are often poorly integrated with local decision-making and anti-poaching. Using the programme for monitoring of the illegal killing of elephants (MIKE), this case study sought to address the following questions:

Tim Kuiper conducting his data collection in Zimbabwe

Tim Kuiper conducting his data collection in Zimbabwe

  • What factors affect the reliability of ranger-collected data on elephant poaching?
  • What factors affect the degree to which monitoring data are effectively used to inform anti-poaching?

A large protected area complex in the Zambezi Valley, Zimbabwe, is the study system. We combined rigorous quantitative methods with in-depth qualitative methods to provide an integrated understanding of the data dynamics and human dynamics of the ranger-based monitoring-management system.

Data collection summary

Data collection summary

Key outputs:

This case study has now evolved into an exciting policy collaboration with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks).

Collaborators: Rose Mandisodza, Nobesuthu Ngwenya, Blessing Kavhu; Professor Edson Gandiwa, Victor Muposhi

Collaborating organisations: Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority; Chinhoyi University of Technology

Thanks to the generous support of:

Oxford Policy Engagement Network, and the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK

We welcome opportunities for other collaborative studies to be integrated across different taxa and regions. Contact us to discuss.

Head to our Resources page for more outputs from our research and contact us to get any copies.