The Extinction Crisis

The legal trade in exotic and endangered wildlife, and the natural world more broadly, as been allowed to fly under the radar for decades. The landmark May 2019 IPBES report into the global extinction crisis confirmed that direct exploitation for trade is the most important driver of decline and extinction risk for marine species and the second most important driver for terrestrial and freshwater species.

Nature Needs More is unique in that we investigate both the legal and illegal trade in endangered species to recommend systemic solutions that will reverse the unsustainable exploitation of nature. We consider the role of business, regulators, consumer desire and the impact of prevailing economic narratives that are driving the observed rapid increase in trade.

Despite there being thousands of conservation NGOs, none focus on the legal trade in endangered species. The use of exotic and endangered species for trade falls into no man’s land between the vegan/anti-trade moment and dominant pro-sustainable-use ideology. Practically all existing conservation agencies work on either the illegal trade or on protecting individual species, but no-one is looking at the overall commercialisation or regulatory mechanism for the trade and its lack of effectiveness.

As a result, the legal trade in endangered species has grown rapidly and is enabling the equally massive illegal trade to flourish because currently these two are functionally inseparable.

Fixing the well-known flaws in the legal trade mechanism has the potential for a huge positive impact for the survival of endangered species in a very short time frame because there are existing regulatory solutions that can be adopted from other industries. In contrast, the extinction threat from land use and habitat loss related issues will take decades to address, but the legal trade system can be fixed in less than 10 years.

Yet, even a this time, when the world is dealing with a pandemic that is zoonotic in origin because the line between humans and exotic animals has long been breached for trade, the problems with the legal, global trade are still allowed to fly under the radar.

Nature Needs More realises that addressing the trade mechanism is insufficient if we do not stop unconstrained demand growth through demand reduction campaigns and a change to consumption patterns. This means challenging the never-ending economic growth story and the ‘sustainable use’ mantra that has been adopted by corporate conservation agencies and industry alike.

What We Do

Nature Needs More works on tackling the key systemic enablers of the illegal wildlife trade, including consumer demand for wildlife products and the deficiencies in the legal trade system under CITES.

We pioneered demand reduction campaigns for rhino horn based on the insights of behavioural science, anti-smoking campaigns and road safety campaigns. To truly tackle the demand for any illegal wildlife product, the final step is to redirect the desire to consume endangered species to other ways of gaining status.

Through our research we know that the illegal trade cannot be tackled without addressing longstanding deficiencies in the legal trade system. In the last 12 months we have worked extensively to understand how CITES needs to be modernised and resourced to close the glaring loopholes in the legal wildlife trade system which are exploited by the illegal trade. This work has led us to propose changes to the CITES convention starting with the implementation of a traceable, transparent and secure electronic permitting system.

Beyond fixing the permit system, we are pushing for proper industry regulation based on a ‘business pays’ model as used in other industries where the Precautionary Principle is applied and enforced (such as pharmaceuticals).

Companies benefiting from the legal trade in endangered species need to address the destructive pseudo-luxury market, which drives the desire for endangered species. Nature Needs More is pushing to ensure wildlife is factored into the evolving sustainable (luxury) fashion strategy; currently it is not.

To reduce demand for wildlife products, we need to test new ways to support impoverished communities bordering key wildlife populations when the sustainable use approach is not a valid approach. Nature Needs More has developed a basic income linked to conservation model for this purpose and we have designed a pilot project for which we are currently seeking funding.

What You Can Do

  1. Reduce Meat Consumption

    Most agricultural land use is dedicated to livestock farming – either by growing feed or through use as pasture. Livestock now makes up 60% of all mammals on earth (humans 36%, wildlife 4%). By reducing meat consumption you can make a huge difference in reducing pressure on the remaining 15% of landmass that are still wilderness. You don’t have to become vegan – just halving your meat consumption would go a long way, especially in Australia, with the highest per-capita meat consumption in the world

  2. Don’t buy products containing body parts of wild animals

    By paying attention to what you buy, you can play in active part in reducing the demand for wildlife products such as fur, exotic leathers, ivory, bones and feathers. No matter if the wild animals have been farmed, at present the regulation of the legal trade is so poor that for every product illegally harvested animals can be easily laundered into the legal market. And the luxury brands don’t care.

  3. Support Us Financially

    The work we do is unique, there is no other conservation agency in the world that is working on modernising the legal trade system and reducing the demand for luxury wildlife products in a systemic fashion. We currently volunteer our time to Nature Needs More, but need to cover travel expenses. CITES is based in Geneva and the work on modernising the system requires attendance at annual committee meetings and travel to key signatory countries.

  4. Join the New 1%

    Addressing the Extinction Crisis and Climate Emergency requires a new type of leader, who we decided to call the New 1%. These new leaders understand that society and the planet need to take precedence over business and finance from now on. The New 1% go beyond social media and petitions to be visibly active and a visible force for change in the real world, every day, week or month.

Our Current Projects to Tackle the Illegal Wildlife Trade

In order to successfully tackle the rampant illegal wildlife trade, all aspects of the trade system need to be challenged.

This means tackling supply side issues such as poverty and the sustainable use model, tackling the desire and demand for legal and illegal wildlife products and tackling the systemic faults and loopholes in the legal trade system under CITES.

Demand Reduction

In the first instance, it must be understood that demand reduction is not the same as awareness-raising or education. Demand reduction campaigns need to he highly targeted and in a currency that resonates with the group whose behaviour needs to change. Find out more.

Redirecting Desire 

Redirecting desire is the final stage of demand reduction. To ensure that desire is redirected away from consumption Nature Needs More has been researching the historical concept of Magnificence and gaining status from contribution to the natural world. Find out more.

Legal Trade In Species  

Nature Needs More believes it is impossible to decisively tackle the illegal trade until the legal trade in species is regulated effectively. And, industries that drive desire, e.g. luxury fashion, need to be more conscious of their impact on wildlife. Find out why.

Basic Income Linked To Conservation 

Nature Needs More recommends a Basic Income linked to conservation be tested. Stage 1 has been designed to disrupt poaching channels. Stage 2 is a tiered basic income linked to the new 3Rs (Rehabilitation, Revegetation and Rewilding). Find out more.


Nature Needs More creates mainstream media and social media campaigns to drive change across a range of industry and consumer groups. These are primarily awareness raising campaign to consider wildlife in purchasing and sustainability decisions. Find out more.