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Characterising the Extent of Illegal Online Trade in Wildlife Using Novel Approaches

Yeo, Lydia Mary (2018) Characterising the Extent of Illegal Online Trade in Wildlife Using Novel Approaches. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (KAR id:76176)

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Abstract

The illegal, international trade in wildlife poses serious and pressing threats at a number of levels. Traded species are increasingly threatened with extinction and these harms extend to compromised biodiversity and ecosystem instability. Associated threats include biosecurity issues such as disease introduction (including zoonoses) and the ingress of alien species.

The research focus of this thesis is to contribute towards addressing a key area of unmet need that underpins counter-illegal wildlife trade measures. Specifically, bridging an informational "gap" which the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has acknowledged under UN Resolution A/71/L.88 "Tackling Illicit Wildlife Trafficking" (2017). Under UN A/71/L.88 the UNGA has tasked the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) with collecting information on patterns and flows of illicit wildlife trafficking as a support to addressing the trade. The UNODC describes bridging the informational gap as essential to successful counter illegal wildlife trade measures. I translate this imperative to the fast-growing online environment for illegal wildlife trade where the lack of information is a compelling unmet need.

In my initial MRC study I build on prior research into online trade in CITES-listed species to evaluate population parameters associated with (illegal) online trade in elephant ivory within the UK. Online media operate "24/7" and, currently, no suitable technology exists to monitor and interrogate this trade continuously. MRC offers a resource-efficient means to monitor trade since it can be applied to estimate trading population parameters based on incomplete observation. I assess study outcomes to identify population parameter inferences and potential actions to address trade based on these. I indicate opportunities for MRC application to enhance understanding of the illegal, online trade in ivory and, potentially, other wildlife trade commodities.

I shift focus to engage with people more directly to understand their involvement in illegal wildlife trade, preferred transaction routes i.e. face to face or online, and how this balance may be changing. I apply sensitive question models (including a novel model) and direct questioning to investigate potentially sensitive purchasing behaviours in a reptile keeper community, principally UK-based. I discuss study outcomes in terms of comparative model performance and consider significant results in the context of the reptile trade. Aspects particular to sensitive question model application are discussed and suggestions for future research made, informed by learnings from this study.

This research indicates that illegal, online wildlife trade is ongoing in the (mainly) UK trading populations I have assessed, despite initiatives and enforcement actions designed to address it. This leads me to consider the effectiveness of such initiatives, and factors that may influence this. I suggest that ensuring clear understanding of the extent and nature of trade being conducted, including the behaviours that underpin it, is essential to designing suitable interventions with an increased likelihood of success.

I recommend further, coordinated research as indicated in this thesis as part of a wider initiative to deepen understanding of illegal (online) wildlife trade as a support to effective counter-measures and biodiversity conservation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Roberts, David
Thesis advisor: McCrea, Rachel
Uncontrolled keywords: Illegal online wildlife trade; elephant ivory; mark recapture; wildlife crime; environmental crime; human behaviour online; trading population characteristics; sensitive question models; comparative methodology study; multi-state open robust design
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 04 Sep 2019 09:10 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:07 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/76176 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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