Implementing the Ballot Box Method to reduce social desirability bias when researching sensitive behaviours in conservation
Guidance on the design and implementation of the Ballot Box Method for indirect questioning on sensitive issues in conservation.
Arias, M., Hinsley, A., & Milner-Gulland, E. (2020, December 8). Implementing the Ballot Box Method to reduce social desirability bias when researching sensitive behaviours in conservation.
Published: Dec 2020 | Categories: Research Articles Tools and Guidance

Saiga horn user characteristics, motivations, and purchasing behaviour in Singapore.
Unsustainable wildlife trade is a pervasive issue affecting wildlife globally. To address this issue, a plethora of demand reduction efforts have been carried out. These necessitate consumer research which provides crucial knowledge for designing and evaluating targeted interventions. We implemented a rigorous consumer survey on saiga (Saiga tatarica) horn use in Singapore, where usage is legal and widely sold. Saiga are Critically Endangered antelopes from Central Asia with horns (often marketed as ling yang) used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Few past studies have assessed saiga horn consumers. This work is the most extensive consumer research to date specifically characterising saiga horn consumers and usage. We conducted 2294 in-person surveys on saiga horn use with Chinese Singaporeans, employing neutral questioning approaches. We found 19% of individuals reported saiga horn as a product they choose most often for themselves and/or others when treating fever and/or heatiness (a TCM state of illness), indicating a minimum estimate of high-frequency usage, not including possible low-frequency users. Overall saiga users were most characterised as middle-aged Buddhists and Taoists. However, saiga users were found in a range of demographic groups. Women preferred saiga shavings (the more traditional form), while men preferred saiga cooling water (the more modern form). About 53% of individuals who used saiga horn themselves also bought it for someone else. Buyers for others were most likely to be female middle-aged Buddhists or Taoists. Key motivating reasons for usage were “it works” and “someone recommended it to me.” The top two reported recommenders were family and TCM shopkeepers. Saiga users were more likely than non-saiga users to perceive saiga as a common species in the wild. This research holds significance for interventions targeting saiga horn consumption within Singapore and throughout Asia, by identifying potential target audiences, product types, non-desirable alternatives, and motivations for use.
H Doughty, D Veríssimo, R Tan, J Lee, R Carrasco, K Oliver, EJ Milner-Gulland (2019). Saiga horn user characteristics, motivations, and purchasing behaviour in Singapore. PLOS ONE. 
Published: May 2020 | Categories: Research Articles

Rangers and modellers collaborate to build and evaluate spatial models of African elephant poaching
Globally, tens of thousands of wildlife rangers patrol wide areas and record evidence of poaching activity such as elephant carcasses and snares. Such data have significant potential to inform conservation, but patrols are non-random in space and time, so conclusions from raw patrol data may be biased. Here we model spatial patterns of elephant poaching based on detections of carcasses by ranger patrols in the Zambezi Valley, Zimbabwe (201 carcasses, 2000–2017), using different methodological scenarios to correct for patrol bias. We follow a participatory modelling framework, using interviews with practitioners (rangers and managers) to help build and evaluate these models. We found that poaching patterns in the bias-corrected scenarios differed among themselves and from the uncorrected scenario. Practitioners interrogated the credibility of the predictions in each scenario and thus helped discern true poaching patterns from those explained by patrol bias. We uncovered proximity to water as the strongest driver of poaching, likely reflecting both poacher and elephant behaviour. Our results show that it is essential to account for observer bias before developing management actions (such as ranger patrol strategies) from raw observational data. We further demonstrate the value of combining multiple lines of evidence (statistical models and interview responses) for more robust inference in the face of uncertainty.
Kuiper, T., Kavhu, B., Ngwenya, N.A., Mandisodza-Chikerema, R., Milner-Gulland, E.J., 2020. Rangers and modellers collaborate to build and evaluate spatial models of African elephant poaching. Biol. Conserv. 243, 108486.
Published: May 2020 | 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

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

Quantifying the trade in wild-collected ornamental orchids in South China: Diversity, volume and value gradients underscore the primacy of supply
Despite the grave threat illegal wildlife trade poses to species survival, few studies have attempted to link supply and demand data for the same wildlife product. All ca. 29,000 orchid species are listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and many are protected under domestic legislation too, but a growing body of evidence suggests that orchids continue to be subject to unsustainable harvesting and undocumented trade. South China is a known black spot for trade in wild-collected ornamental orchids but understanding of the drivers determining the flow of species diversity, volume and value remains wanting. We conducted systematic monthly surveys at five markets along a West-East transect from Yunnan to Hong Kong for one year, recording variables including species, numbers of individuals, weight and price. Although wild orchid diversity is highest in Yunnan, the diversity of orchids in trade increased eastwards and mean price per stem rose more than four-fold, albeit always significantly cheaper than that for artificially produced hybrids. Part of this trade appears to be in breach of CITES. Few orchids in trade conformed to six criteria highlighted in prior demand-side studies as being of higher utility value, but most conformed to a combination of four or more, suggesting that vendors can readily offer products that meet a majority of consumer preferences. Effective supply-side regulation, through government intervention and social media campaigns, is needed to facilitate behavioural change and allow artificially propagated plants to compete in the market-place.
SW Gale, P Kumar, A Hinsley, ML Cheuk, J Gao, H Liu, ZL Liu, ...Quantifying the trade in wild-collected ornamental orchids in South China: Diversity, volume and value gradients underscore the primacy of supply Biological Conservation 238, 108204
Published: May 2020 | Categories: Research Articles

Illegal Wildlife Trade: Scale, Processes, and Governance
Illegal wildlife trade (IWT) has increased in profile in recent years as a global policy issue, largely because of its association with declines in prominent internationally trafficked species. In this review, we explore the scale of IWT, associated threats to biodiversity, and appropriate responses to these threats. We discuss the historical development of IWT research and highlight the uncertainties that plague the evidence base, emphasizing the need for more systematic approaches to addressing evidence gaps in a way that minimizes the risk of unethical or counterproductive outcomes for wildlife and people. We highlight the need for evaluating interventions in order to learn, and the importance of sharing datasets and lessons learned. A more collaborative approach to linking IWT research, practice, and policy would better align public policy discourse and action with research evidence. This in turn would enable more effective policy making that contributes to reducing the threat to biodiversity that IWT represents.
Illegal Wildlife Trade: Scale, Processes, and Governance M ‘t Sas-Rolfes, DWS Challender, A Hinsley, D Veríssimo, ... Annual Review of Environment and Resources 44, 201-228
Published: May 2020 | Categories: Research Articles

Building sustainability into the Belt and Road Initiative’s Traditional Chinese Medicine trade
A little-known aim of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is ‘people-to-people cultural exchange’, including active promotion of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in BRI countries. On a global scale, this is likely to increase both TCM demand and the sourcing of wildlife-based TCM ingredients from new areas. Any rapid increase in wildlife demand risks exacerbating illegal and unsustainable trade but, with careful management, BRI–TCM could also present opportunities for well-governed supply chains, creating sustainable livelihoods for rural harvesters. With China reaching out to BRI countries to cooperate on the marketing, registration and promotion of TCM products, there is now a critical short-term window for the identification of these risks and opportunities, and to ensure that sustainability is built into these markets from the start. Promotion of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) will accompany China’s Belt and Road Initiative. This Perspective notes the potential risks and advocates open-eyed cooperation to build sustainability into this expanding TCM market.
Building sustainability into the Belt and Road Initiative’s Traditional Chinese Medicine trade A Hinsley, EJ Milner-Gulland, R Cooney, A Timoshyna, X Ruan, TM Lee Nature Sustainability, 1-5
Published: May 2020 | Categories: Research Articles

Horizon Scan of the Belt and Road Initiative
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) represents the largest infrastructure and development project in human history, and presents risks and opportunities for ecosystems, economies, and communities. Some risks (habitat fragmentation, roadkill) are obvious, however, many of the BRI’s largest challenges for development and conservation are not obvious and require extensive consideration to identify. In this first BRI Horizon Scan, we identify 11 frontier issues that may have large environmental and social impacts but are not yet recognised. More generally, the BRI will increase China’s participation in international environmental governance. Thus, new cooperative modes of governance are needed to balance geopolitical, societal, and environmental interests. Upgrading and standardising global environmental standards is essential to safeguard ecological systems and human societies.
AC Hughes, AM Lechner, A Chitov, A Horstmann, A Hinsley, A Tritto, ... Horizon Scan of the Belt and Road Initiative. Trends in Ecology & Evolution
Published: May 2020 | Categories: Research Articles

Motivations for (non‐) compliance with conservation rules by small‐scale resource users
Understanding compliance with conservation rules is key for biodiversity conservation. Here, we assess compliance and its underlying motivations in a small‐scale fishery in Chile. We adapt a framework originally developed for forestry to unpack compliance motivations at within‐individual and between‐individuals levels while accounting for contextual factors. We find that 92–100% fishers comply with temporal or gear rules, while only 3% comply with the quota limit. Legitimacy‐based motivations are more important in explaining why individual fishers comply with temporal/gear rules than they are for compliance with the quota. At the between‐individuals level, we find that normative motivations are significantly related to the degree of non‐compliance with the quota. Contextual factors such as quota levels are key in explaining broader non‐compliance patterns. Our results suggest that considering compliance at appropriate analytical levels is necessary to unpack motivations, guide local and national natural resource management policies, and move toward a better theory of compliance.
Oyanedel, R., Gelcich, S., & Milner‐Gulland, E. J. (2020). Motivations for (non‐) compliance with conservation rules by small‐scale resource users. Conservation Letters, e12725.
Published: May 2020 | Categories: Research Articles

Marine and Fisheries Policies in Latin America: A Comparison of Selected Countries
This book reviews the frameworks and implementation of marine, fishery and coastal laws and policies in Chile, Mexico and Peru. Chile, Mexico and Peru share biodiverse coastal and marine environments which are being affected by unregulated and informal developments, and thus share similar challenges. Each country is currently at a different stage of advancement in their institutional response to these complex challenges. By providing a comparison of the frameworks, approaches and overall implementation of policies and laws, this book acts as a tool to influence and inform further efforts in conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, particularly fisheries, in these countries and others in Latin America and the Caribbean. A broad range of issues are covered including food security, tourism, fisheries, oil and mineral extraction from the seabed, wind power, coastal and marine pollution and endangered species conservation. The chapters compare how each country addresses these issues from an institutional, legal and policy perspective. The book concludes by identifying common lessons, reoccurring challenges and develops scalable recommendations applicable to the case study countries and the wider region.
Muller, M. R., Oyanedel, R., & Monteferri, B. (2019). Marine and Fisheries Policies in Latin America: A Comparison of Selected Countries. Routledge.
Published: May 2020 | Categories: Research Articles

Evaluating the feasibility of pangolin farming and its potential conservation impact (Open Access)
Pangolins are threatened by overexploitation for local and international use. They are subject to an international commercial trade ban, and are also the focus of other interventions, including attempts at commercial captive breeding. The impact that the latter could have on the conservation of wild populations deserves consideration. We critically evaluate the feasibility of commercial captive breeding (or farming) of pangolins to displace wild collection and assess its potential conservation impact on pangolin conservation using a recently published framework developed for this purpose. Of the 17 conditions posited that need to be met for supply-side interventions to displace wild collection, we find that pangolins meet a maximum of only six conditions. This analysis suggests that pangolin farming will not displace wild collection in the near future. Major barriers include an inability to breed pangolins on a commercial scale and available data suggest that it would be unprofitable. The immediate impact of pangolin farming on conservation of the species’ is unclear, but it is unlikely to benefit the conservation of wild populations. If commercial captive breeding were possible, it is uncertain how it would affect economic incentives for poaching, interactions between legal and illegal markets, stockpile policies, and how consumers and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners would respond. To understand better the potential overall impact of pangolin farming on wild populations there is a need for further research on these uncertainties. The framework used has utility in analysing the potential impact of wildlife farming but there remains a need for a more robust approach to evaluate potential impacts of supply-side interventions.
D.W.S. Challender, M. ‘t Sas-Rolfes, et al. (2019) Evaluating the feasibility of pangolin farming and its potential conservation impact. Global Ecology and Conservation. Vol.20.
Published: Aug 2019 | Categories: Research Articles

Location Privacy in Conservation (Open Access)
The growing public nature of academic journals along with current best practices of sharing primary data for scientific research are profoundly valuable for the understanding of a species and their conservation efforts. On the other hand, public spatial data on endangered species may be easily abused by wildlife criminals. In this paper, we discuss how geo-indistinguishability, a formal notion of privacy for location-based systems, can be used to add noise to published spatial data whilst allowing quantification of such tradeoff.
Imanda, H., & Wright, J. 2019. Location Privacy in Conservation. arXiv e-prints, arXiv:1907.07054
Published: Jul 2019 | Categories: Research Articles

Illegal wildlife trade and the persistence of “plant blindness” (Open Access)
This review investigates the ways in which “plant blindness,” first described by Wandersee and Schussler (1999, p. 82) as “the misguided anthropocentric ranking of plants as inferior to animals,” intersects with the contemporary boom in research and policy on illegal wildlife trade (IWT). We argue that plants have been largely ignored within this emerging conservation arena, with serious and detrimental effects for biodiversity conservation. With the exception of the illegal trade in timber, we show that plants are absent from much emerging scholarship, and receive scant attention by US and UK funding agencies often driving global efforts to address illegal wildlife trade, despite the high levels of threat many plants face. Our article concludes by discussing current challenges posed by plant blindness in IWT policy and research, but also suggests reasons for cautious optimism in addressing this critical issue for plant conservation.
Margulies, JD, Bullough, L‐A, Hinsley, A, et al. Illegal wildlife trade and the persistence of “plant blindness”. Plants, People, Planet. 2019; 00: 1– 10.
Published: Jul 2019 | Categories: Research Articles

Evidence to action: research to address illegal wildlife trade
The Oxford Martin Programme on the Illegal Wildlife Trade ( has launched a key research brief, Evidence to Action: Research to Address Illegal Wildlife Trade. This brief, addressed to policy makers and practitioners, outlines areas where research evidence can support effective illegal wildlife trade policy, highlights critical uncertainties where research is required, and emphasizes the need for better design and evaluation of interventions that can help improve the effectiveness of efforts to combat illegal wildlife trade. The Evidence to Action brief is the first of a new set of tools and guidance for researchers and practitioners.
Cugniere, L., Wright, J., & Milner-Gulland, E. (2019). Evidence to action: Research to address illegal wildlife trade. Oryx, 53(3), 411-411. doi:10.1017/S0030605319000371
Published: Jul 2019 | Categories: Research Articles

Born captive: A survey of the lion breeding, keeping and hunting industries in South Africa (Open Access)
Commercial captive breeding and trade in body parts of threatened wild carnivores is an issue of significant concern to conservation scientists and policy-makers. Following a 2016 decision by Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, South Africa must establish an annual export quota for lion skeletons from captive sources, such that threats to wild lions are mitigated. As input to the quota-setting process, South Africa’s Scientific Authority initiated interdisciplinary collaborative research on the captive lion industry and its potential links to wild lion conservation. A National Captive Lion Survey was conducted as one of the inputs to this research; the survey was launched in August 2017 and completed in May 2018. The structured semi-quantitative questionnaire elicited 117 usable responses, representing a substantial proportion of the industry. The survey results clearly illustrate the impact of a USA suspension on trophy imports from captive-bred South African lions, which affected 82% of respondents and economically destabilised the industry. Respondents are adapting in various ways, with many euthanizing lions and becoming increasingly reliant on income from skeleton export sales. With rising consumer demand for lion body parts, notably skulls, the export quota presents a further challenge to the industry, regulators and conservationists alike, with 52% of respondents indicating they would adapt by seeking ‘alternative markets’ for lion bones if the export quota allocation restricted their business. Recognizing that trade policy toward large carnivores represents a ‘wicked problem’, we anticipate that these results will inform future deliberations, which must nonetheless also be informed by challenging inclusive engagements with all relevant stakeholders.
Williams VL, ‘t Sas-Rolfes MJ (2019) Born captive: A survey of the lion breeding, keeping and hunting industries in South Africa. PLoS ONE 14(5): e0217409.
Published: May 2019 | Categories: Research Articles

Estimating identification uncertainties in CITES ‘look-alike’ species (Open Access)
Achieving sustainability in international wildlife trade encompasses a series of challenges, such as identification uncertainty for taxonomically complex groups. Although CITES has developed a ‘look-alike’ policy to collectively manage trade in morphologically similar species and thus facilitate enforcement, its effective application with regards to the export quota system is questionable. We used a multidisciplinary approach to provide an understating of the trade in a taxonomically complex genus of Malagasy chameleons. An online systematic survey of trade was undertaken to identify which species of Calumma have been the subject of trade. A matching task was employed to calculate identification error rates among species in the genus. Results suggest that the online market for Calumma is thriving, including species with long-standing zero quotas. Identification error rates varied widely, reaching high levels of error for some species pairs here identified as ‘look-alike’ species. Findings suggest manual identification technique has varying reliability, potentially resulting in misidentification by stakeholders within the trade. Such errors have negative consequences for both chameleon conservation and the long-term socio-economic development of Madagascar. An understanding of the patterns of identification error can help tailor future management and policy plans.
Alfino, S. and Roberts, D. L. 2019. Estimating identification uncertainties in CITES ‘look-alike’ species (In press). Global Ecology and Conservation.
Published: May 2019 | Categories: Research Articles

Inadequacies in establishing CITES trade bans
Challender, D., Hinsley, A., Milner-Gulland, E.J. (2019) Inadequacies in establishing CITES trade bans. Front Ecol Environ 17( 4): 199– 200, doi:10.1002/fee.2034
Published: Apr 2019 | Categories: Research Articles

Characterizing efforts to reduce consumer demand for wildlife products
The unsustainable trade in wildlife is a key threat to Earth's biodiversity. Efforts to mitigate this threat have traditionally focused on regulation and enforcement, and there is a growing interest in campaigns to reduce consumer demand for wildlife products. We aimed to characterize these behavior‐change campaigns and the evidence of their impacts. We searched peer‐reviewed and grey literature repositories and over 200 institutional websites to retrieve information on demand‐reduction campaigns. We found 236 campaigns, mainly in the grey literature. Since the 1970s, the number of campaigns increased, although for over 15% a start date could not be found. Asia was the primary focus, although at the national level the United States was where most campaigns took place. Campaigns most often focused on a single species of mammal; other vertebrates groups, with the exception of sharks, received limited attention. Many campaigns focused on broad themes, such as the wildlife trade in general or seafood. Thirty‐seven percent of campaigns reported some information on their inputs, 98% on strategies, 70% on outputs, 37% on outcomes (i.e., changes in the target audience), and 9% on impacts (i.e., biological changes or threat reduction). Information on outcomes and impacts was largely anecdotal or based on research designs that are at a high risk of bias, such as pre‐ and postcampaign comparisons. It was unclear whether demand‐reduction campaigns had direct behavioral or biological impacts. The lack of robust impact evaluation made it difficult to draw insights to inform future efforts, a crucial part of effectively addressing complex issues, such as the wildlife trade. If demand‐reduction campaigns are to become a cornerstone of the efforts to mitigate the unsustainable trade in wildlife, conservationists need to adopt more rigorous impact evaluation and a more collaborative approach that fosters the sharing of data and insights.
Veríssimo, D. and Wan, A. K. 2019. Characterizing efforts to reduce consumer demand for wildlife products. Conservation Biology. doi:10.1111/cobi.13227
Published: Apr 2019 | Categories: Research Articles

Emerging illegal wildlife trade issues in 2018: a global horizon scan (Pre-print)
Illegal wildlife trade is gaining prominence as a global threat to biodiversity, but remains inadequately researched and poorly understood. To help inform proactive policy responses in the face of uncertainty, we conducted a horizon scan of significant emerging issues. We built upon existing iterative horizon scanning methods, using an open and global participatory approach to evaluate issues from a diverse range of sources. Prioritised issues related to: developments in biological, information and financial technologies; changing trends in demand and information; and socio-economical and geopolitical shifts and influences (with a particular focus on East Asia, Africa and Latin America). The top three issues related to China, illustrating its vital role in tackling emerging threats. This analysis can support national governments, international bodies, researchers and non-governmental organisations as they develop strategies for addressing the illegal wildlife trade.
Esmail, N., Wintle, B., Rolfe, M. '. S., Athanas, A., Beale, C., Bending, Z., … Milner-Gulland, E. (2019). Emerging illegal wildlife trade issues in 2018: a global horizon scan.
Published: Apr 2019 | Categories: Research Articles

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