Reducing Demand for Wildlife Products in China: Lessons Learned and Future Plans

Reducing Demand for Wildlife Products in China: Lessons Learned and Future Plans

Twenty-six civil society and government organizations met in Beijing on May 12 and 13 to explore the impact of behavior change campaigns implemented in China over the last four years to curb the local consumption of wildlife products. The country is one of the world’s biggest markets for such products. In recent years, conservationist and local government have been working hard and collaborating to tackle this issue.

From the discussions and presentations, success stories emerged. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has enjoyed some notable successes in its campaigns to educate the public about where ivory comes from. Evaluations show that its ad campaigns have penetrated 75 percent of urban China, reducing the target group most likely to purchase ivory from 54 to 26 percent. The organization has also employed key opinion leaders to get the public’s attention and deliver its key messages that wildlife products are not status symbols or panaceas.

Entrepreneur, artist and conservationists provided different perspectives on behavior change communications during an insightful panel discussion. From left: SUN Na, XIE Zheng, HE Yong, ZHANG Wenting, LI Lishu Photo: Freeland

Entrepreneur, artist and conservationists provided different perspectives on behavior change communications during an insightful panel discussion. From left: SUN Na, XIE Zheng, HE Yong, ZHANG Wenting, LI Lishu Photo: Freeland

Participants recognized the need for more collaboration and partnerships that will link demand reduction campaigns to enforcement actions. Such partnerships are proliferating in China: partnerships between the public and private sectors, in-kind support from advertising and media agencies for nongovernmental organizations to spread the word through public service announcements, billboards and social media channels. These kinds of joint ventures are supplying a proactive push at ground level that are causes for optimism in reducing demand among the affluent consumers of China.

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Twenty-six civil society and government organizations joined seminar on Wildlife Demand Reduction in China Photo: Freeland

One of the most important points raised at the seminar was that behavior change is a long-term strategy. Ms. Sun Na, who runs a grassroots movement “DaLian Zero Shark Fins,” reminded the participants to stay positive. “Remember change takes time, as long as we change one mind at a time, we are making a difference,“ she said.

Daniel Lindgren, founder of RapidAsia, a behavioral change evaluation firm, explained how changing someone’s behavior is a journey. All such journeys start from a point of ignorance. The person is unaware of the issue. Then they hear about and start to learn. Only when they believe the issue is important can they change their values and attitudes enough to alter their behavior.

The seminar followed on from a similar event held at the end of March in Vietnam. Both events underlined the fact that when species are rapidly disappearing from the wild, it is crucial that demand reduction campaigns deliver maximum impact in each country with high levels of wildlife trafficking and consumption.

The seminars were funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking (ARREST) program and implemented by the international counter trafficking organization, Freeland. Next up will be a demand reduction seminar in Thailand in July.

As two of the world’s foremost markets for rare species products, China and the United States have contributed significant resources to reducing demand in their respective countries and other parts of the world. The conference addressed policy makers’ buy-in is even a more crucial element in conducting a successful behavior change campaign.