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.
Given the scale of the extinction crisis ‘business as usual’ is not an option and the traditional conservation approach is not enough; the trade in flora and fauna was confirmed as the second biggest threat to species survival in the May 2019 IPBES Report which states that up to 1 million species are potentially facing extinction.
We focus our effort on a number of critical projects, which involve the supply side, demand side and the trade mechanism of both the legal and illegal wildlife trade.
We pioneered narrowly targeted demand reduction campaigns for rhino horn based on the insights of behavioural science, anti-smoking campaigns and road safety campaigns. We have been running demand reduction campaigns for rhino horn in Viet Nam since 2014, which have contributed to the observed decline in rhino poaching since the peak in 2014.
To permanently reduce 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 (which is the primary motivation to consume for many high-value illegal wildlife products). This means we need to find ways to rediscover magnificence, which encapsulated the idea of ‘status from contribution’ to society until it was usurped by luxury consumption with the advent of the industrial revolution and the emergence of the ‘self-made’ merchant class.
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.
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. We are also advocating for industry to pay the cost of regulating the trade, as is the case in most industries that are regulated based on the Precautionary Principle.
In addition, for CITES to become a proper regulator of the trade in endangered flora and fauna, it needs to take demand side factors into account and its needs to default to a ‘no trade’ position like in all other industries based on the Precautionary Principle (such as for pharmaceuticals). The burden of proof that trade can be sustainable then shifts to those benefiting from trade.
Challenging the Sustainable Use Mantra
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.