Complex interactions between commercial and noncommercial drivers of illegal trade for a threatened felid
Illegal trade and human‐wildlife conflict are two key drivers of biodiversity loss and are recognized as leading threats to large carnivores. Although human‐wildlife conflict involving jaguars (Panthera onca) has received significant attention in the past, less is known about traditional use or commercial trade in jaguar body parts, including their potential links with retaliatory killing. Understanding the drivers of jaguar killing, trade and consumption is necessary to develop appropriate jaguar conservation strategies, particularly as demand for jaguar products appears to be rising due to Chinese demand. We interviewed 1107 rural households in north‐western Bolivia, an area with an active history of human–jaguar conflict, which has also been at the epicentre of recent jaguar trade cases. We collected information on participants' experiences with jaguars, their jaguar killing, trading and consuming behaviours and potential drivers of these behaviours. We found that the relationships between local people and jaguars are complex and are driven largely by traditional practices, opportunism, human–jaguar conflict and market incentives from foreign and domestic demand, in the absence of law awareness and enforcement. Addressing jaguar trade and building human–jaguar coexistence will require a multifaceted approach that considers the multiple drivers of jaguar killing, trade and consumption, from foreign and local demand to human–jaguar conflict.
Arias, M., Hinsley, A., Nogales‐Ascarrunz, P., Carvajal‐Bacarreza, P.J., Negroes, N., Glikman, J.A. and Milner‐Gulland, E. (2021), Complex interactions between commercial and noncommercial drivers of illegal trade for a threatened felid. Anim. Conserv.. https://doi.org/10.1111/acv.12683
Published: Mar 2021 | Categories: Research Articles
COVID-19, Systemic Crisis, and Possible Implications for the Wild Meat Trade in Sub-Saharan Africa (Open Access)
Wild animals play an integral and complex role in the economies and ecologies of many countries across the globe, including those of West and Central Africa, the focus of this policy perspective. The trade in wild meat, and its role in diets, have been brought into focus as a consequence of discussions over the origins of COVID-19. As a result, there have been calls for the closure of China’s “wet markets”; greater scrutiny of the wildlife trade in general; and a spotlight has been placed on the potential risks posed by growing human populations and shrinking natural habitats for animal to human transmission of zoonotic diseases. However, to date there has been little attention given to what the consequences of the COVID-19 economic shock may be for the wildlife trade; the people who rely on it for their livelihoods; and the wildlife that is exploited. In this policy perspective, we argue that the links between the COVID-19 pandemic, rural livelihoods and wildlife are likely to be more complex, more nuanced, and more far-reaching, than is represented in the literature to date. We develop a causal model that tracks the likely implications for the wild meat trade of the systemic crisis triggered by COVID-19. We focus on the resulting economic shockwave, as manifested in the collapse in global demand for commodities such as oil, and international tourism services, and what this may mean for local African economies and livelihoods. We trace the shockwave through to the consequences for the use of, and demand for, wild meats as households respond to these changes. We suggest that understanding and predicting the complex dynamics of wild meat use requires increased collaboration between environmental and resource economics and the ecological and conservation sciences.
McNamara, J., Robinson, E.J.Z., Abernethy, K. et al. COVID-19, Systemic Crisis, and Possible Implications for the Wild Meat Trade in Sub-Saharan Africa. Environ Resource Econ 76, 1045–1066 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10640-020-00474-5
Published: Aug 2020 | Categories: Research Articles
Criteria for CITES species protection
Unsustainable international wildlife trade is a major conservation concern, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is a key tool for regulating it. In their Policy Forum “Long delays in banning trade in threatened species” (15 February, p. 686), E. G. Frank and D. S. Wilcove suggest that when the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species identifies a species as threatened, at least in part by international trade, it should be promptly added to CITES. We welcome the suggestion for closer interaction between the Red List and amendments to the CITES Appendices. However, the proposed approach of a near-automatic pathway overlooks the independent criteria and processes used for evaluating extinction risk on the Red List and for including species in CITES.
Challender, D. W. S., Hoffmann, M., Hoffmann, R., Scott, J., Robinson, J. E., Cremona, P., Hilton-Taylor, C., Jenkins, R. K. B., Malsch, K., Conde, D., De Meulenaer, T. 2019. Criteria for CITES species protection. SCIENCE Vol. 364(6437), 247-248.
Published: Apr 2019 | Categories: Research Articles
Demography and social dynamics of an African elephant population 35 years after reintroduction as juveniles
Given their vulnerability to local extinction, the reintroduction of megafauna species (often long‐lived, ecologically influential and highly social) is an increasingly relevant conservation intervention. Studies that evaluate past megafauna reintroductions are both critical and rare.
Between 1981 and 1996, 12 cohorts of a total of 200 juvenile (10 years old) composed 30% of the population in 2016. The population remains relatively young and forecasts suggest high potential for sustained growth over the next decade.
The first calf was born to a reintroduced female in 1990 and since then mother–calf units have gradually developed into semi‐independent multi‐generation families (7–15 individuals in size in 2016). The size of observed cow–calf groups was highly variable (mean = 21.4 individuals, range: 7–109), with repeat observation of individual collared females revealing fusion and fission among different family groups through time, as is typical of more natural elephant populations.
Synthesis and applications. From an unusual founder population of reintroduced juvenile elephants, we document rapid population growth and the development of normal sociality over 35 years. While this may be an encouragement for megaherbivore reintroductions in general, the potential for exponential population growth must be carefully considered when ecologically influential species are introduced to closed systems. Our study provides key long‐term insights for elephant translocations, which are becoming increasingly necessary due to overpopulation in some areas and local extinction in others.
Kuiper TR, Druce DJ, Druce HC. Demography and social dynamics of an African elephant population 35 years after reintroduction as juveniles. J Appl Ecol. 2018;55:2898–2907. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.13199
Published: Jun 2018 | Categories: Research Articles
Documenting and tackling the illegal wildlife trade: change and continuity over 40 years
In October 2018 the UK government hosts a major international governmental conference on tackling the illegal wildlife trade, the latest in a series that it initiated in 2014 with a conference attended by representatives of 50 countries (UK Government, 2014).This emphasis on illegal wildlife trade as a priority conservation issue is very welcome. The trade is not, however, a new problem. Looking back to past experiences and attempts to address such trade can provide valuable insights for current policy and practice. To mark and contribute to the deliberations of the October 2018 London conference we have compiled 16 of these articles into a virtual issue (https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/oryx/virtual-issues), illustrating both the persistent and changing themes in illegal wildlife trade research as represented in Oryx from the 1960s to the present day.
Milner-Gulland, E. (2018). Documenting and tackling the illegal wildlife trade: Change and continuity over 40 years. Oryx, 52(4), 597-598. doi:10.1017/S0030605318001047
Published: Sep 2018 | Categories: Research Articles
Does It Work for Biodiversity? Experiences and Challenges in the Evaluation of Social Marketing Campaigns.
There is a growing realization among conservationists that human behavior is the main driver of all key threats to biodiversity and the environment. This realization has led to an escalation of the efforts to influence human behavior toward the adoption of more sustainable alternatives, more recently through the use of social marketing theory and tools. However, these initiatives have traditionally suffered from a lack of robust impact evaluation, which limits not only accountability but also a practitioner's ability to learn and improve over time.
Diogo Veríssimo, Annalisa Bianchessi, Alejandro Arrivillaga, Fel Ceasar Cadiz, Roquelito Mancao, Kevin Green. Does It Work for Biodiversity? Experiences and Challenges in the Evaluation of Social Marketing Campaigns. Social Marketing Quarterly.
Published: Oct 2017 | Categories: Research Articles
Editorial: Influencing consumer demand is vital for tackling the illegal wildlife trade (Open Access)
Consumer demand is an integral part of any market system, and the markets involving wildlife products are no exception ('t Sas-Rolfes et al., 2019). Tackling the illegal wildlife trade (IWT) for the benefit of biodiversity conservation requires understanding and influencing consumer demand (Veríssimo et al., 2020). While demand reduc-tion activities are increasing (Veríssimo & Wan, 2019), they remain poorly funded, with only 6% of the funds committed globally to re-duce IWT focused on consumer demand (World Bank Group, 2016). This lack of investment is also reflected in the knowledge base, with limited research focused on understanding the drivers of consumer demand for illegal wildlife products, and the existing knowledge focused largely on a few species of birds and mammals (Margulies et al., 2019). We hope the Consuming wildlife – managing demand for wildlife products special feature can showcase the different types of research needed to start filling this gap.
Veríssimo, D., 't Sas‐Rolfes, M. and Glikman, J.A. (2020), Influencing consumer demand is vital for tackling the illegal wildlife trade. People Nat, 2: 872-876.
Published: Dec 2020 | 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. https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/b5azx
Published: Apr 2019 | Categories: Research Articles
Emerging illegal wildlife trade issues: A global horizon scan (Open Access)
Illegal wildlife trade is gaining prominence as a threat to biodiversity, but addressing it remains challenging. To help inform proactive policy responses in the face of uncertainty, in 2018 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 and rank issues from a diverse range of sources. Prioritized issues related to three themes: developments in biological, information, and financial technologies; changing trends in demand and information; and socioeconomic, geopolitical shifts and influences. The issues covered areas ranging from changing demographic and economic factors to innovations in technology and communications that affect illegal wildlife trade markets globally; 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 nongovernmental organizations as they develop strategies for addressing the illegal wildlife trade.
Esmail, N, Wintle, BC, t Sas‐Rolfes, M, et al. Emerging illegal wildlife trade issues: A global horizon scan. Conservation Letters. 2020; 13:e12715. https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12715
Published: Apr 2020 | 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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2019.e00648
Published: May 2019 | Categories: Research Articles
Evaluating a large-scale online behaviour change intervention aimed at wildlife product consumers in Singapore (Open Access)
Interventions to shift the behaviour of consumers using unsustainable wildlife products are key to threatened species conservation. Whether these interventions are effective is largely unknown due to a dearth of detailed evaluations. We previously conducted a country-level online behaviour change intervention targeting consumers of the Critically Endangered saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica) horn in Singapore. To evaluate intervention impact, we carried out in-person consumer surveys with >2,000 individuals pre- and post-intervention (2017 and 2019), and 93 in-person post-intervention surveys with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) shopkeepers (2019). The proportion of self-reported high-usage saiga horn consumers in the target audience (Chinese Singaporean women aged 35–59) did not change significantly from pre- to post-intervention (24.4% versus 22.6%). However, post-intervention the target audience was significantly more likely than the non-target audience to accurately recall the intervention message and to report a decrease in saiga horn usage (4% versus 1% reported a behaviour change). Within the target audience, high-usage consumers were significantly more likely than lower-usage consumers to recall the message and report a behaviour change. Across respondents who reported a decrease in saiga horn usage, they cited the intervention message as a specific reason for their behaviour change significantly more than other reasons. Additionally, across all respondents, the belief that saiga is a common species in the wild decreased significantly from pre- to post-intervention. TCM shopkeepers, however, cited factors such as price and availability as the strongest influences on saiga horn sales. In sum, the intervention did significantly influence some consumers but the reduction of high-usage consumer frequency was not significant at the population level. We explore reasons for these findings, including competing consumer influences, characteristics of the intervention, and evaluation timing. This work suggests our intervention approach has potential, and exemplifies a multi-pronged in-person evaluation of an online wildlife trade consumer intervention.
Doughty H, Milner-Gulland EJ, Lee JSH, Oliver K, Carrasco LR, Veríssimo D (2021) Evaluating a large-scale online behaviour change intervention aimed at wildlife product consumers in Singapore. PLoS ONE 16(3): e0248144. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0248144
Published: Mar 2021 | Categories: Research Articles
Evaluating methods for detecting and monitoring pangolin (Pholidata: Manidae) populations (Open Access)
The behaviours, ecologies and morphologies of pangolins make them challenging to survey and monitor, and non-targeted wildlife surveys have not produced robust status assessments, especially where population densities are low because of overexploitation. To inform the development of feasible survey and monitoring techniques for pangolins, we conducted a systematic review of all traceable efforts used to survey and monitor pangolins to date: 87 articles were included in the review. Pitfalls of current approaches are discussed and recommendations made on suitable methods. Recommendations include the use of mark-recapture for burrow-dwelling species, community interviews, sign-based surveys in arid and open habitats, detection dog teams, and targeted camera-trapping. Occupancy sampling using camera-traps could be used to monitor some pangolin populations, particularly ground-dwelling species, but the rarity of all species makes it uncertain whether this would provide enough data for monitoring; combinations of methods used within an occupancy sampling framework are likely to be the most effective. There will be many circumstances where direct monitoring of a population at a site, to a level that will generate precise data, is not financially viable nor the best use of conservation resources. In many sites, particularly in Asia, pangolins are too rare as a result of overexploitation, and/or occur in inaccessible areas where significant resources will be needed to implement a targeted monitoring programme. Under such circumstances, the use of proxy variables, including status of other hunting-sensitive species that are easier to record, in combination with enforcement or patrol data and/or community interviews, is likely to be the most cost-effective method for assessing the impact of conservation interventions on pangolin status. The publication of incidental observations and survey ‘by-catch’ would significantly improve understanding of pangolin status and ecology, and therefore how best to identify, conserve and monitor priority populations.
Willcox, et. al. 2019. Evaluating methods for detecting and monitoring pangolin (Pholidata: Manidae) populations. Global Ecology and Conservation, Volume 17.
Published: Feb 2019 | Categories: Research Articles
Evaluating the application of scale frequency to estimate the size of pangolin scale seizures (Open Access)
All eight species of pangolin are principally threatened by overexploitation, both for international trafficking and local use. Much illegal trade involves scales, but there is an absence of robust conversion parameters for estimating the number of different pangolin species in given seizures. Such parameters are critical in order to accurately characterize pangolin trafficking and understand the magnitude and impact of exploitation on populations. In this study, we calculated the number of scales on 66 museum specimens representing all eight extant pangolin species from the genera Manis, Phataginus, and Smutsia, and developed a method for estimating the number of pangolins in given seizures of scales based on scale frequency. Our statistical analyses found significant variation in scale number in inter-species terms (ranging from 382 for Temminck's ground pangolin to 940 for the Philippine pangolin), and in intra-species terms, with substantial variation in the giant pangolin (509–664 scales) and minimal variation in the Chinese pangolin (527–581 scales). We discuss application of the developed sampling method in a real world context and critically appraise it against existing methods. The knowledge generated in this study should assist in understanding pangolin trafficking dynamics, though there remains a need for accurate conversion parameters for estimating the number of pangolins in illegal trade, especially for the Indian and African species.
Ullmann, T., Veríssimo, D., Challender, D.W.S, (2019) Evaluating the application of scale frequency to estimate the size of pangolin scale seizures, Global Ecology and Conservation, Volume 20
Published: Sep 2020 | Categories: Research Articles
Evaluating the Design of Behaviour Change Interventions: A Case Study of Rhino Horn in Vietnam
Behavioral change interventions are increasingly widely used in conservation. Several projects addressing rhino horn consumption were recently launched in Vietnam. We used key informant interviews, document analysis, and marketing theory to explore their strategies for intervention design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. We developed a framework to evaluate whether they followed best practice and identify implementation challenges. Using best practice from other fields and considering demand reduction within the wider context of wildlife, trade policy will help address these challenges.
Olmedo, A., Sharif, V. and Milner-Gulland, E.J. (2017), Evaluating the Design of Behavior Change Interventions: A Case Study of Rhino Horn in Vietnam. CONSERVATION LETTERS. doi:10.1111/conl.12365
Published: Aug 2017 | 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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2019.e00714.
Published: Aug 2019 | Categories: Research Articles
Evidence to action: research to address illegal wildlife trade
The Oxford Martin Programme on the Illegal Wildlife Trade (illegalwildlifetrade.net) 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
Exploring saiga horn consumption in Singapore
The Critically Endangered saiga antelope Saiga tatarica faces an uncertain future, with populations dwindling from epidemics in its range countries, and ongoing demand for its horns (ling yang, 羚羊) in the traditional Chinese medicine trade. Despite this, little is known about the consumers that drive domestic demand. Investigation into consumption prevalence and consumer demographics, knowledge and motivations has shown that awareness of conservation issues and regulations was uniformly low. Awareness raising may have an effect in reducing consumer demand in Singapore. However, given the exploratory nature of this study, it is best used to guide and inform future research underlying behavioural change interventions in a relatively understudied but important consumer group, Chinese Singaporeans.
Theng, M., Glikman, J. A., and Milner-Gulland, E.J. 2018. Exploring saiga horn consumption in Singapore. Oryx, p. 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0030605317001624
Published: Mar 2018 | Categories: Research Articles
FilteredWeb: A framework for the automated search-based discovery of blocked URLs
Various methods have been proposed for creating and maintaining lists of potentially filtered URLs to allow for measurement of ongoing internet censorship around the world. Whilst testing a known resource for evidence of filtering can be relatively simple, given appropriate vantage points, discovering previously unknown filtered web resources remains an open challenge. Authors present a novel framework for automating the process of discovering filtered resources through the use of adaptive queries to well-known search engines. Implementation of this framework, applied to China as a case study, shows the approach is demonstrably effective at detecting significant numbers of previously unknown filtered web pages, making a significant contribution to the ongoing detection of internet filtering as it develops.
Darer, A, Farnan, O and Wright, J et al., (2017). FilteredWeb: A framework for the automated search-based discovery of blocked URLs. 2017 Network Traffic Measurement and Analysis Conference (TMA). https://ora.ox.ac.uk/objects/uuid:6321b48a-9a84-4452-8e2b-9e0ccb59ff67
Published: Apr 2017 | 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
Identifying global centers of unsustainable commercial harvesting of species
Overexploitation is one of the main threats to biodiversity, but the intensity of this threat varies geographically. We identified global concentrations, on land and at sea, of 4543 species threatened by unsustainable commercial harvesting. Regions under high-intensity threat (based on accessibility on land and on fishing catch at sea) cover 4.3% of the land and 6.1% of the seas and contain 82% of all species threatened by unsustainable harvesting and >80% of the ranges of Critically Endangered species threatened by unsustainable harvesting. Currently, only 16% of these regions are covered by protected areas on land and just 6% at sea. Urgent actions are needed in these centers of unsustainable harvesting to ensure that use of species is sustainable and to prevent further species’ extinctions.
Di Minin, et. al. 2019. Identifying global centers of unsustainable commercial harvesting of species. Science Advances Vol. 5, no. 4.
Published: Apr 2019 | Categories: Research Articles