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Taking a more nuanced look at behavior change for demand reduction in the illegal wildlife trade

Thomas‐Walters, Laura, Veríssimo, Diogo, Gadsby, Erica, Roberts, David, Smith, Robert J. (2020) Taking a more nuanced look at behavior change for demand reduction in the illegal wildlife trade. Conservation Science and Practice, 2 (9). Article Number e248. E-ISSN 2578-4854. (doi:10.1111/csp2.248) (KAR id:82086)


The illegal wildlife trade threatens the future of many species, and undermines economies and livelihoods. Conservationists have largely responded with supply‐side interventions, such as antipoaching patrols, but these often fail to stem the tide of wildlife trafficking. There is now increasing interest in demand‐side interventions, which seek to lower poaching pressure on sought‐after species by reducing consumer's desire for, and purchase of, specific wildlife products. Individual behavior change approaches, from environmental education to social marketing, have been widely advocated by academics, practitioners, and policy makers. However, this is an emerging field and we lack the breadth of evidence needed to understand and predict the potential outcomes of demand reduction interventions. To help us gain broader insights, we examine the literature from public health and international development on the effectiveness of behavior change interventions, and critique the current conceptualization of strategies for reducing consumer demand in the illegal wildlife trade. We show that behavior change is difficult to achieve and interventions may have unintended and undesirable consequences because of unaddressed systemic, cultural and environmental drivers, and limited resourcing. We conclude that some sections of the conservation community are advocating a shift from one reductionist approach based on limiting supply, to another based on limiting demand, and argue that conservationists should learn from the public health and international development projects that have integrated systems thinking. By accounting for the multiple interactions and synergies between different factors in the wildlife trade, we can develop more strategic approaches to protecting endangered species.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1111/csp2.248
Uncontrolled keywords: consumers; ivory; rhino horn; social marketing; socioecological frameworks; whole systems approaches; wildlife trade
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH75 Conservation (Biology)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > DICE (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology)
Depositing User: Bob Smith
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2020 13:57 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2024 18:45 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Thomas‐Walters, Laura.

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Roberts, David.

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Smith, Robert J..

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