Fewer people buying wildlife products and exotic pets means fewer animals being poached and hunted and in turn fewer species endangered due to trade and trafficking.
But in a world with a growing population, a rising middle class and societies that place so much social, economic and cultural value on wildlife products, how do we get buyers to say no?
The poster reads: Do you want to own ivory dripping with blood? When the buying stops the killing can too. Credit: Mongabay, courtesy of WildAid.
There can be many different economic and social factors that can influence a person to buy wildlife products (legislation, price, peer pressure, personal beliefs, market trends and more) therefore effective demand reduction campaigns that target buyers must be based on thorough social evidence.
The Chi campaign launched on world rhino day in 2014, is one such successful campaign. In 2013, consumer researchers discovered that markets for rhino horn had shifted, no longer purchased for medicinal practices - the 'emotional value' of rhino horn was the main market driver for wealthy, inner city, middle-aged, business men. The campaign played on ancient Vietnamese beliefs of the body and spirit, that a man's inner strength and character 'chi' were the drivers of success and good fortune, not rhino horn.
In contrast, other campaign tactics can create a backlash from increased awareness efforts. When campaigners focused of the plight of African elephant, although a success in reducing demand in China, Vietnamese buyers believed that the elephant population was declining so rapidly that ivory supplies would dwindle and individuals fell into the mindset that they must buy as much ivory as they could now before stocks ran out. When devising demand reduction tactics it is important to remember that what works in one part of the world will not necessarily work in another.
Learn more: How much is a 10 tonne tusker worth?: Demand
Campaigns that appeal to a nations royal, religious or celebrity culture can engage the public to act on a whole new level:
Although a topic of controversy in itself, in January of 2006, his holiness the Dalai Lama, gave a speech emphasizing environmental and wildlife protection, calling upon one-hundred thousand Buddhists not to buy, wear or sell illegal animal furs and skins.
"It is in the Pali and Sanskrit tradition to show love and compassion for all living beings. It is a shame that we kill these poor creatures to satisfy our own aggrandisement"
The statement sparked a revolutionary movement where Tibetans burnt their valuable 'Chupa' and clothes made from the pelts of otter, tiger, leopard and fox in support of their exiled leader.
More recently, Yao Ming (China's 'Basketball King') and Jackie Chan (The martial artists and acting legend from Hong Kong) as well as other celebrities have teamed up with conservationists from WildAid in a campaign to stop demand for elephant ivory and rhino horn. Reports evaluating these major public awareness campaigns are showing promising signs (of those who saw the Yao Ming and Jackie Chan campaigns, 90% said they would not buy rhino horn).
In an age where children are becoming more and more disconnected from nature, now is the time to invest in outdoor learning and support children and adults to explore the natural world around them. By inspiring youth to appreciate the environment and protect their natural resources, teachers and conservationists can empower the next generation, ensuring they grow into caring adults and perhaps even become great conservation leaders themselves.
Children also have a huge persuasion over their parents and in turn educate them about illegal wildlife issues. Parents have been know to give up wildlife they have acquired, either as pets or otherwise, to the authorities and rescue centers when influenced by their children to do so.
Public destruction of stockpiled wildlife products from confiscations and natural mortalities can send a powerful and clear message to poachers, traffickers and law enforcement agents; these items have no economic value and trading in them is illegal.
The most common and highly publicized events are when countries chose to burn their ivory stockpiles. Back in 1989, when the original ban on ivory came into force, Kenya was the first to set tusks and trinkets ablaze, burning 12 tonnes of ivory. Since then, 21 nations around the world have shown their commitment to end the poaching of elephants by destroying 238 tonnes of ivory, ensuring that it will not enter black markets. Kenya is still leading the way, in April 2016 a colossal 105 tonnes of ivory from over 6'000 illegally killed elephants, and 1.5 tonnes of rhino horn, were burnt in Nairobi National Park.
"For us, ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants.” - President Kenyatta, Kenya.
But, like all aspects of wildlife trafficking and the ways to stop over-exploitation, it is not always as simple as that. Destroying ivory still raises questions; in November 2016 the Vietnamese authorities destroyed 2 tonnes of ivory and 70kg of rhino horn but, were criticized suggesting that the very public show covered up the lack of action behind the scenes, after many confiscations of ivory over 2016, no-one has yet been made accountable. Further, the ivory crush may have destroyed material still required for forensic evidence testing and prosecution. However, there are reasons why destroying stockpiles makes sense.