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.

The legal trade in endangered species is huge, and for the most part unchecked; it is enabling the equally massive illegal trade to flourish. Currently, the legal and illegal trade are so intertwined that they are functionally inseparable:

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, investors, regulators, consumer desire and the impact of prevailing economic narratives that are driving the observed rapid increase in trade.

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.

Despite there being thousands of conservation NGOs, it has only been with the emergence of COVID-19, a zoonotic disease, that some organisations have started to look into the legal trade. More research highlights that the three largest importers of legal wildlife are the USA, the EU and China. More organisations are acknowledging that the value of the illegal trade in endangered and exotic species is dwarfed by the value of the legal trade. But still their focus is primarily human health, with their reports and articles filled with images of live animal markets and the sale of exotic meats. While they focus on what has become commonly known as ‘wet’ markets, the global luxury markets, that use the same supply chains, are allowed to fly under the radar.

When you consider the value of the legal trade in wildlife, recently estimated to be US$400 billion annually, where is the value chain most profitable?


Or here?


Or here?

Currently there is little evidence that any business or industry knows what a sustainable off-take level is for the species they use in their supply chains. Similarly, their supply chains are opaque. Nature Needs More believes that any of the stakeholders – business, investors, government or conservation – who want the sustainable use model to remain must commit to validating it. Radical transparency is the first step, until trade is transparent there is no proof of sustainability; the sustainable use model remains an ideology, not a strategy.

What We Do

Nature Needs More works on tackling the key, systemic enablers driving the over exploitation of endangered and exotic species, and the illegal wildlife trade.

Our works includes investigating what is motivating consumer demand for wildlife products and what is needs to be put in place to overcome the current 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 24 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.

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 believes any of the stakeholders – business, investors, government, IGOs or conservation NGOs – who want the sustainable use model to remain must commit to validating it. Radical transparency is the first step, until trade is transparent there is no proof of sustainability; it remains just an ideology, not a strategy.

Nature Needs More continues to create innovative behaviour change campaigns, as well as producing articles and online magazines, from The Fly to HowToSpendItEthically.Org to improve knowledge and understanding of these issues.

In the end to decisively deal with biodiversity loss, we need to test new models that do not rely on continuous economic growth and exploitation of nature for profit. Nature Needs More has developed a basic income linked to conservation model for this purpose, which can be customised depending on the transformation needed. This change will be dependent on a new ways of thinking and a different model of leadership.

What You Can Do

If you are one of the growing number of people who want to see a reversal of biodiversity loss, key is to accept that the traditional conservation model has failed.

The reason for the failure is that traditional conservation has focused almost exclusively on the illegal trade and poverty, while clinically sidestepping the wealth that drives the legal trade. The legal trade is a key enabler of wildlife and timber trafficking and research has confirmed that over exploitation for the legal trade is a key driver of the extinction crisis.

The USA, the EU and China are the top consumers of endangered species. It is these countries who must take the lead driving down over exploitation. As citizens of these key consumer countries, we must look to our own purchasing behaviour. By paying attention to what you buy, you can play an active part in reducing the demand for wildlife products such as fur, exotic leathers, ivory, bones, feathers coral, luxury seafoods and tropical hardwood timber. Once more consumers show we care, the businesses who want our custom and the politicians who want our votes will take more notice of biodiversity loss.

If you would like to learn more about how the legal trade is enabling the industrial scale trafficking of wildlife and timber, check out articles from our online consumer magazine, HowToSpendItEthically.Org, or subscribe to get Nature Needs More latest news.

You can also support Nature Needs More financially, with a one off or regular donation; or you may like to be a part of one of our fundraising events.

We are a volunteer organisation, and while we take no wage, help to cover some of our expenses is very welcome.

Current Projects Include:

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.

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 held more accountable of their impact on biodiversity loss. Find out why.

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.

Articles covering legal (luxury) consumption of wildlife and endangered species more broadly. Given the scale of biodiversity loss, as a result of legal trade, this is not the time to be a blind shopper. We need to discuss the elephant in the room. 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.

The Fly’s mission is to cover the broader issues enabling the exploitation of species. While the conservation sector talks about complexity, there is little evidence it is able to take a multifaceted approach. Its activities remain too narrow, mainly species and issue specific. Find out more.