Published 25th March 2021
Within the GEF funded project “Combating Illegal Wildlife Trade in Thailand, Focusing on Ivory, Rhino Horn, Tiger and Pangolins”, TRAFFIC is responsible for physical and online market assessments and for the design and implementation of social and behaviour change interventions to reduce the demand for illegal wildlife products. The objective of this document is to create an evidence base to use in the design of these activities. The document has been prepared by reviewing existing research into illegal wildlife trade in online and physical markets, research of consumers of illegal wildlife products in Thailand, and previous demand reduction campaigns.
Vasan Narang and Stephen Watson
In Thailand, wildlife products are purchased for a variety of reasons including consumption for food, traditional medicines, luxury accessories and decorations, spiritual items, and pets. Research for WWF by GlobeScan in March 2020 revealed that 15% of 1,000 Thai consumers who participated in the research had personally bought, or knew someone who had bought, wildlife products in an open wildlife market in the previous 12 months, most likely as pets, food or for use in traditional medicine.
The illegal wildlife trade in Thailand and globally was previously conducted mostly in physical markets, but in the last decade (particularly since the advent of 3G and 4G smartphones) the internet has rapidly evolved to become a key channel facilitating the trade with thousands of live animals, parts and products. For example, Facebook has experienced huge user growth in Thailand since 2010 and is now not only one of the biggest social networks in the country but also one of the most commonly used platforms for illegal wildlife trade online.
A major objective of this project is to combat illegal trade in ivory, rhino (horns), tiger and pangolins. The current analysis of available data indicates that whilst there is demand for ivory and tiger parts in Thailand, demand for pangolins and rhino horn is negligible. Although TRAFFIC data show a high number of seizure incidents involving pangolins, most of them involve attempts to illegally export, or re-export, to other countries, often using Thailand as a transit country from sources elsewhere in Asia (and in recent years, also Africa). Furthermore, data show that the number of seizure incidents each year involving pangolins has declined. For rhino horn, analysis of limited data indicates that there is neither demand for nor supply of rhino horn in the Thai market. Nevertheless, smugglers still use Thailand as a transit hub, as evidenced by the seizure in March 2017 at Bangkok airport (BBC, 2017).
In addition, Thailand may also be a geographic point of transaction within rhino horn trafficking chains as evidenced by the seizure of 12.5 kilograms of rhino horn from South Africa that also led to the arrest of the Bach Family Syndicate in Thailand (Mongabay, 2018; The ASEAN Post, 2018).
Research to understand why consumers buy IWT products has so far mostly been restricted to purchasers of ivory and tiger products. The research revealed that there is demand for ivory and tiger products in Thailand, although more than 90% of those surveyed said that they were unlikely to purchase either of the products (USAID, 2018) and more than 70% supported a total trade ban (GlobeScan and National Geographic, 2015).
of Thai consumers surveyed in 2020 by Globescan had bought or knew someone who had bought wildlife products in an open market
had purchased live birds
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