‘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
“Saving Lives, Protecting Livelihoods, and Safeguarding Nature”: Risk-Based Wildlife Trade Policy for Sustainable Development Outcomes Post-COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused huge loss of life, and immense social and economic harm. Wildlife trade has become central to discourse on COVID-19, zoonotic pandemics, and related policy responses, which must focus on “saving lives, protecting livelihoods, and safeguarding nature.” Proposed policy responses have included extreme measures such as banning all use and trade of wildlife, or blanket measures for entire Classes. However, different trades pose varying degrees of risk for zoonotic pandemics, while some trades also play critical roles in delivering other key aspects of sustainable development, particularly related to poverty and hunger alleviation, decent work, responsible consumption and production, and life on land and below water. Here we describe how wildlife trade contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in diverse ways, with synergies and trade-offs within and between the SDGs. In doing so, we show that prohibitions could result in severe trade-offs against some SDGs, with limited benefits for public health via pandemic prevention. This complexity necessitates context-specific policies, with multi-sector decision-making that goes beyond simple top-down solutions. We encourage decision-makers to adopt a risk-based approach to wildlife trade policy post-COVID-19, with policies formulated via participatory, evidence-based approaches, which explicitly acknowledge uncertainty, complexity, and conflicting values across different components of the SDGs. This should help to ensure that future use and trade of wildlife is safe, environmentally sustainable and socially just.
Booth Hollie, Arias Melissa, Brittain Stephanie, Challender Daniel W. S., Khanyari Munib, Kuiper Timothy, Li Yuhan, Olmedo Alegria, Oyanedel Rodrigo, Pienkowski Thomas, Milner-Gulland E. J.. “Saving Lives, Protecting Livelihoods, and Safeguarding Nature”: Risk-Based Wildlife Trade Policy for Sustainable Development Outcomes Post-COVID-19. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 9(99) 2021. DOI=10.3389/fevo.2021.639216. ISSN=2296-701X.
Published: Feb 2021 | Categories: Research Articles
A Horizon Scan of Emerging Issues for Global Conservation in 2019
We present the results of our tenth annual horizon scan. We identified 15 emerging priority topics that may have major positive or negative effects on the future conservation of global biodiversity, but currently have low awareness within the conservation community. We hope to increase research and policy attention on these areas, improving the capacity of the community to mitigate impacts of potentially negative issues, and maximise the benefits of issues that provide opportunities. Topics include advances in crop breeding, which may affect insects and land use; manipulations of natural water flows and weather systems on the Tibetan Plateau; release of carbon and mercury from melting polar ice and thawing permafrost; new funding schemes and regulations; and land-use changes across Indo-Malaysia.
Sutherland, W. et al. 2019. A Horizon Scan of Emerging Issues for Global Conservation in 2019. Trends in Ecology & Evolution Vol. 34 (1): 83-94.
Published: Jan 2019 | Categories: Research Articles
A review of the trade in orchids and its implications for conservation (Open Access)
Orchids are one of the largest plant families and are commercially traded for a variety of purposes, including as ornamental plants, medicinal products and food. Much of this trade is the result of illegal harvest meaning that it is little documented and is absent from official statistics, at the same time as being of growing conservation concern.
Amy Hinsley, Hugo J de Boer, Michael F Fay, Stephan W Gale, Lauren M Gardiner, Rajasinghe S Gunasekara, Pankaj Kumar, Susanne Masters, Destario Metusala, David L Roberts, Sarina Veldman, Shan Wong, Jacob Phelps; A review of the trade in orchids and its implications for conservation, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, , box083, https://doi.org/10.1093/botlinnean/box083
Published: Dec 2017 | Categories: Research Articles
A roaring trade?
Lion bones have now joined elephant ivory and rhino horn as contentious commodities in the wildlife trade policy arena. This follows revelations of a growing export market of bones from deceased captive-bred lions from South Africa to Southeast Asia – and sharply divided opinions over how policy-makers should respond to this. Michael t' Sas-Rolfes talks about the major issues surrounding this contentious topic.
Published: Feb 2017 | Categories: Opinions
A scoping review of celebrity endorsement in environmental campaigns and evidence for its effectiveness (Open Access)
The use of celebrities in marketing campaigns is widespread globally, including in environmental conservation. Celebrity endorsements are pervasive, but there is limited evidence of their effectiveness. We conducted a review of celebrity‐endorsed environmental campaigns. We report on the extent to which celebrities have been used in these campaigns, whether evaluation of the endorsement has been conducted, and assess whether there is evidence that the celebrities achieved the objectives they set out to accomplish through their engagement. We searched the peer‐reviewed and grey literature in six languages from July 2018 to January 2019 and found 79 campaigns implemented in nine countries from 1976 to 2018. Two thirds of campaigns were implemented in China and reported in Chinese. Only four campaigns were evaluated, but none of the evaluations provided evidence of the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement. Evaluation focused instead on overall campaign outputs and outcomes. Claims of effectiveness were made, but the lack of measurable objectives, theory of change, outcome indicators, and critical evaluation renders it impossible to determine whether the outcomes achieved by the campaigns can be attributed to celebrity endorsement. It thus remains unclear whether celebrity endorsement can contribute to conservation efforts. It is essential for environmental practitioners and researchers to report the outcomes and lessons learned from celebrity endorsements to ensure that their future use in conservation marketing campaigns is evidence‐based, thereby improving conservation practice.
Olmedo, A., Milner-Gulland, E.J., Challender, D., Cugnière, L., Dao, H., Nguyen, L., Nuno, A., Potier, E., Ribadeneira, M., Thomas-Walters, Laura; Wan, Anita; Wang, Yifu; Veríssimo, Diogo. (2020) A scoping review of celebrity endorsement in environmental campaigns and evidence for its effectiveness. Conservation Science and Practice. ; 2:e261.
Published: Aug 2020 | Categories: Research Articles
A synthesis of (non‐)compliance theories with applications to small‐scale fisheries research and practice (Open Access)
Non‐compliance in fisheries is a persistent challenge for the conservation and sustainable management of the oceans and has particularly acute impacts in small‐scale fisheries contexts. Small‐scale fisheries often suffer from chronic overexploitation, poor management, lack of enforcement and non‐compliance, but small‐scale fishers are highly dependent on the ocean as a source of employment and food. Improving our understanding of the determinants of non‐compliant behaviours in small‐scale fisheries can help develop strategies to prevent and reduce its consequences. Here, we review two main approaches for the study of non‐compliant behaviours and crimes more broadly, spanning criminology, economics and psychology. On the one hand, actor‐based approaches address the underlying motivations for people to comply or not with regulations. Opportunity‐based approaches, on the other hand, assume that non‐compliance is not distributed randomly across space and time and focuses on the role that the immediate environment plays in the performance of non‐compliant behaviours. We discuss potential applications of actor‐based and opportunity‐based approaches in guiding small‐scale fisheries non‐compliance research. Moreover, we provide guiding principles for integrating these approaches in a complementary way, highlighting opportunities and challenges for building a better non‐compliance research agenda for fisheries and beyond. Addressing non‐compliance is a common challenge for natural resource management in multiple ecosystems. Integrating these two perspectives has the potential to improve both research and practice.
Oyanedel, R, Gelcich, S, Milner‐Gulland, EJ. (2020) A synthesis of (non‐)compliance theories with applications to small‐scale fisheries research and practice. Fish and Fisheries; 21: 1120– 1134.
Published: Jul 2020 | Categories: Research Articles
A systematic survey of online trade: Trade in Saiga antelope horn on Russian-language websites (Open Access)
Trade in wildlife is increasingly moving online, which creates significant challenges for monitoring. Numerous reports have highlighted the extent of the trade but they rarely present a methodology to facilitate replication or any form of meta-analysis. Here we present a systematic approach to surveying online trade in wildlife that builds on the well-established systematic evidence review approach. We apply this approach to investigate the online trade in saiga antelope Saiga tatarica horns on Russian-language websites. Of the 419 advertisements, the majority (217, 52%) were from Ukraine, followed by Russia (122, 29%), and were largely offers to sell (254, 61%), and represented one-off advertisements. Trade was identified on 89 websites, with the majority being on classified ads websites (68, 76%), auction.violity.com being the most popular site (156, 37%). Prices varied significantly depending on the country and how the horn was being offered (i.e. by weight or length). It is clear that saiga horn is being traded over the internet, with Ukraine and Russia comprising c. 80% of advertisements on Russian-language websites. Individuals with single advertisements dominate, suggesting website fidelity, although website usage is country-specific, potentially reflecting domestic trade. This suggests country-specific interventions could be particularly effective. A systematic approach for investigating online wildlife trade provides a clear and transparent methodology, and, given data collection is resource-intensive, allows studies to be replicated so that trends.
Roberts, D., Mun, K., & Milner-Gulland, E. (2021). A systematic survey of online trade: Trade in Saiga antelope horn on Russian-language websites. Oryx, 1-8. doi:10.1017/S0030605320001313
Published: Apr 2021 | Categories: Research Articles
Addressing trade threats to pangolins in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
Pangolins have had a complex history in CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. This chapter introduces CITES and discusses how pangolins have been managed in the convention, whether it has been effective at ensuring sustainability in international pangolin trade, and future options for conserving pangolins using CITES. The introduction of zero export quotas for international commercial trade in wild-caught Asian pangolins in the year 2000, in combination with unilateral measures, appears to have contributed to the near cessation of trade in Asian pangolin skins by the early 2000s. However, CITES has otherwise largely failed to ensure sustainability in international trade in pangolins. As all eight pangolin species are included in Appendix I, mechanisms that deal with non-compliance (e.g., Article XIII, Resolution Conf. 14.3) and illegal trade (e.g., a bespoke illegal trade system) offer means of furthering pangolin conservation using CITES.
Challender, DWS., O’Criodain, C. (2020). Addressing trade threats to pangolins in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). In: Challender, DWS., Nash, H., Waterman, C. (Eds.) (2020). Pangolins: Science, Society and Conservation. Academic Press.
Published: May 2021 | Categories: Books & Chapters
Are Traders and Traffickers Winning the Orchid Battle?
Orchids are heavily exploited and traded, wanted for everything from decoration to food and medicine, but illegal collectors could be wiping out species before we even know they exist.
Published: Nov 2017 | Categories: Media Coverage
Asking sensitive questions in conservation using the Unmatched Count Technique
The Unmatched Count Technique (UCT), or list experiment, is an indirect questioning technique which allows answers to remain confidential and respondents to be protected. Because questions are asked in an indirect way, it is used to inquire about illegal activities or behaviours people might not want to openly admit to. The method provides an estimate of how many people within a population are performing the behaviour in question. Although using UCT will not uncover why people are performing a given behaviour, its analysis can produce results to indicate which characteristics (e.g. location, gender, age, income) of the population surveyed are more likely to affect whether a person is engaging in the behaviour. This document explores what should be considered before deciding if UCT is the most appropriate research method for your study and provides guidance on the steps that should be followed when implementing it.
Olmedo CastroA., Davis E., Hinsley A.2019. Asking sensitive questions in conservation using the Unmatched Count Technique. Tools and Guidance, Oxford Martin Programme on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, University of Oxford.DOI:10.31235/osf.io/rcdbk
Published: Aug 2019 | Categories: Method Toolkits
Assessing the extent of access and benefit sharing in the wildlife trade: lessons from horticultural orchids in Southeast Asia
The equitable sharing of benefits from natural resources is a key target of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Trade in its native species is one way in which a country can potentially benefit from its natural resources, and even small-scale traders can now access global markets online. However, little is known about the extent of benefit sharing for many products, and the extent to which the appropriate processes and permits are being used.
Amy Hinsley and David L. Roberts. (2017) Assessing the extent of access and benefit sharing in the wildlife trade: lessons from horticultural orchids in Southeast Asia. Environmental Conservation. Cambridge Core
Published: Sep 2017 | Categories: Research Articles
Assessing the impact of regulations on the use and trade of wildlife : An operational framework , with a case study on manta rays
Overexploitation represents a significant threat to wildlife, with the severest impacts felt by slow growing, economically valuable species. Governments often seek to address this through regulating utilisation and trade of species, which is commonly catalysed by multi-lateral environmental agreements (MEAs) such as the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). However, it is often unclear to what degree CITES and associated regulations lead to tangible conservation outcomes. Robust impact assessments are needed to understand whether regulations are effective for achieving biodiversity conservation goals, and to learn lessons for future policy interventions. Yet such assessments are hindered by data paucity, bias, complexity and uncertainty. Here we discuss key challenges for assessing the impact of regulations on the use and trade of wildlife, and offer a practical approach to overcome them. Our approach combines an integrated framework for collating and analysing disparate and methodologically inconsistent data with a robust process to establish causal inference (and hence assess impact). This framework and process can be applied to any regulation, species or country context. To demonstrate its utility we apply this approach to the case of manta ray utilisation and trade (Mobula alfredi and M. Birostris) in Indonesia. This case study is particularly important due to the recent increase in the number of commercially important elasmobranchs listed in CITES appendices, with Parties adopting various national-level regulations to implement their CITES commitments. However, it is unclear to what degree these listings lead to meaningful regulatory reform, and much-needed reductions in fishing mortality, utilisation and onward trade. Indonesia is also a priority country for effective regulatory reform, due to its role as a major source country for international elasmobranch trade. Overall, we highlight challenges and opportunities for assessing the impact of wildlife trade regulations, which are generalisable across species and contexts, and provide the first attempt to assess the impact of such regulatory change on manta ray mortality in a source country. We also offer recommendation for future implementation and evaluation, emphasising the importance of mixed-methods, multiple datasets, and explicit acknowledgement of bias and complexity.
Booth, H. et al. (2020) ‘Assessing the impact of regulations on the use and trade of wildlife : An operational framework , with a case study on manta rays’, Global Ecology and Conservation. Elsevier Ltd, 22, p. e00953. doi: 10.1016/j.gecco.2020.e00953.
Published: May 2020 | Categories: Research Articles
Attitudes to illegal behaviour and conservation in western Tanzania
Natural resources in and around protected areas in many countries in Africa are under intense pressure as a result of illegal behaviour, such as fishing, hunting and logging. A better understanding of local people's perceptions of the nature of illegal behaviour and the relevance of conservation actions would be useful in informing conservation decisions. We gathered information on the attitudes and perceptions of communities in the vicinity of Ugalla Game Reserve in western Tanzania regarding illegal behaviour and the effectiveness of conservation practices, using household surveys, key informants, and focus groups. We found that local people use the Reserve illegally, especially for hunting (28 ± SE 6%) and logging (20 ± SE 5%). We explored behaviours that are problematic for conservation in the partially protected areas around Ugalla. Local communities reported feeling isolated, harassed and intimidated by approaches used to protect Ugalla. They were angered by the conservation of Ugalla as a trophy hunting site for foreigners, and the excessive force and beatings used by game rangers to keep them away from the Reserve. Improving local livelihoods (17%), participatory conservation (16%), and giving people land for agricultural activities (16%) were among the ways that local communities felt would reduce illegal activities. Our findings suggest the need for conservation measures to benefit local communities around Ugalla transparently and equitably. Outreach programmes would help to raise conservation awareness and attract positive attitudes towards conservation. To encourage local support for conservation, we also suggest that conservation authorities create and maintain good relations with people living near the Reserve.
Wilfred, P., Milner-Gulland, E., & Travers, H. (2017). Attitudes to illegal behaviour and conservation in western Tanzania. Oryx, 1-10. doi:10.1017/S0030605317000862
Published: Sep 2017 | 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
Automatic detection of potentially illegal online sales of elephant ivory via data mining
In this work, we developed an automated systemto detect potentially illegal elephant ivory items for sale on eBay. Two law enforcement experts, with specific knowledge of elephant ivory identification, manually classified items on sale in the Antiques section of eBay UK over an 8 week period.
Hernandez-Castro J, Roberts DL. (2015) Automatic detection of potentially illegal online sales of elephant ivory via data mining. PeerJ Computer Science 1:e10
Published: Jul 2015 | Categories: Research Articles
BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, 26th September 2017: John Simpson interviews E.J. Milner-Gulland on the Ivory Trade
On 26th September 2017, John Simpson, CBE, BBC World Affairs Editor, interviewed Professor E.J. Milner-Gulland on the ivory trade for BBC Radio 4's Today Programme. "There is still an increasing trade coming out of Africa for ivory" reports Milner-Gulland. This interview sparked interest in the evening public debate held at St. Catherine's College, Oxford, UK, which took place later the same day: https://www.illegalwildlifetrade.net/2017symposium/debate/
The debate focused on the state of the wildlife trade leading up to the London IWT Conference in 2018 and addressed the many dimensions of the illegal wildlife trade and its consequences, including those arising from accountability, donor interests, evidence-based policy and livelihood concerns of local communities.
Published: Sep 2017 | Categories: Media Coverage
Behaviour Change for Nature: A Behavioural Science Toolkit for Practitioners
A great summary of behavioural research findings for public policy and how to apply it to biodiversity conservation interventions aimed at influencing behaviour.
Rare and The Behavioural Insights Team. (2019). Behavior Change For Nature: A Behavioral
Science Toolkit for Practitioners. Arlington, VA: Rare.
Categories: Useful Links
Belt and Road Initiative may create new supplies for illegal wildlife trade in large carnivores
Southeast Asia is a major hub of illegal wildlife trade, with supplies arriving from many parts of the world. Most west and central Asian countries have hitherto been less engaged in this supply chain1, possibly because of remote locations, less-developed transportation networks and easier availability of other sources of supply, but China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has the potential to dramatically change that situation. The planned BRI and its southern tributary, the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor, traverse key habitats for large carnivores, which are highly marketable species in China and Southeast Asia. By creating new access to wildlife and supply corridors, the BRI poses a significant risk of increasing illegal wildlife trade in the region.
MS Farhadinia, A Maheshwari, MA Nawaz, H Ambarlı, MA Gritsina, ...Belt and Road Initiative may create new supplies for illegal wildlife trade in large carnivores Nature ecology & evolution 3 (9), 1267-1268
Published: May 2020 | Categories: Research Articles
Beyond banning wildlife trade: COVID-19, conservation and development
One of the immediate responses to COVID-19 has been a call to ban wildlife trade given the suspected origin of the pandemic in a Chinese market selling and butchering wild animals. There is clearly an urgent need to tackle wildlife trade that is illegal, unsustainable or carries major risks to human health, biodiversity conservation or meeting acceptable animal welfare standards. However, some of the suggested actions in these calls go far beyond tackling these risks and have the potential to undermine human rights, damage conservation incentives and harm sustainable development. There are a number of reasons for this concerns. First calls for bans on wildlife markets often include calls for bans on wet markets, but the two are not the same thing, and wet markets can be a critical underpinning of informal food systems. Second, wildlife trade generates essential resources for the world’s most vulnerable people, contributing to food security for millions of people, particularly in developing countries. Third, wildlife trade bans have conservation risks including driving trade underground, making it even harder to regulate, and encouraging further livestock production. Fourth, in many cases, sustainable wildlife trade can provide key incentives for local people to actively protect species and the habitat they depend on, leading to population recoveries. Most importantly, a singular focus on wildlife trade overlooks the key driver of the emergence of infectious diseases: habitat destruction, largely driven by agricultural expansion and deforestation, and industrial livestock production. We suggest that the COVID-19 crisis provides a unique opportunity for a paradigm shift both in our global food system and also in our approach to conservation. We make specific suggestions as to what this entails, but the overriding principle is that local people must be at the heart of such policy shifts.
D Roe, A Dickman, R Kock, EJ Milner-Gulland, E Rihoy, M ’t Sas-Rolfes 2020 Beyond banning wildlife trade: COVID-19, conservation and development, World Development, Volume 136
Published: Jul 2020 | Categories: Research Articles