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Fighting illegal trade: focus on supply AND demand side

June 3rd 2013 C

As long as there is demand and scarcity, illegal trade will continue…!

Say no to the illegal trade and consumption of rhino horns“, is the message of this campaign of Education for Nature Vietnam. It aims to end the myth and rumors about the magical properties of rhino horn:

“It is too late for Vietnam’s last rhino but not too late for other rhinos in the world. Vietnam must share the resoponsibility in protecting rhinos by enforcing the law and dispelling the mythological belief in the value of rhino horn. Here is what you can do to help:

  • Don’t consume medicines made from endangered wildlife 
  • Report wildlife crimes to appropriate authorities or ENV’s Wildlife Crime Hotline 1-800-1522 
  • DONATE and help support our efforts.

What is nice about the campaign is the concise explanation of the issue and the supporting cartoon visuals of the video.

The questions the campaign raises with me are the following:
1. If – as the video says – the ultra rich are the consumers, would they change their beliefs, values and behaviour by seeing this video?
2. If the general public sees the video, will the factual information trigger them into action (reporting wildlife crimes and donating money)? Or will they think: “sad, but let is move on“.
3. And most importantly: what is the change strategy behind this campaign?
4. To reduce the demand for rhino horn, should we not touch on emotions, values and beliefs of the super rich? Should we not work through ‘ambassadors’ from this group in stead of using mass media?

Let’s compare this with another approach
An IUCN/TRAFFIC project explores – in a participatory way – the causes, contexts and alternatives for current illegal practices of hunting, trading and selling of wild meat. There are radio and TV spots for consumers. And special videos for bus passengers on their way to the region. There is training, alternative menus and other support for roadside restaurants that until recently were specialized in wild meat. At the supply side there is investment in capacity development of women and youth in indigenous communities and alternative livelihoods for families of hunters.

The suppliers changed behavior. In a number of cities in teh Ecuadorian Amazon there is no wildmeat anymore on the market, nor for sale in roadside restaurtants. The demand seems to peter out as there are interesting alternatives of special Amazonian dishes. The media support the change of supply and demand in promoting the new norm: “It is no longer cool to eat wildmeat.” Read the full story in key subject 5 of the Storytelling course C on the IUCN/TRAFFIC campaign in Ecuadord (pdf). There is also story of a successful campaign to reduce demand of wild mussels in Slovenia (pdf).

In both cases the change strategy was based on a combination of instruments (infrastructure, enforcment, capacitybuilding and communication). The Vietnam campaign looks like based on a cool idea of ‘let’s make a video’ in stead of analyzing the issue, the audiences and then think of messages and means. It might be an idea for Education for Nature Vietnam to have a closer look at these successful campaign stories.

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