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Understanding desire for ivory

New guide applies psychosocial insights to the global wildlife crime crisis
Carved ivory is shown to the media before being destroyed in Beijing in May 2015

A first-of-its-kind guide released by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) suggests tackling the elephant ivory trade requires a deeper understanding of consumers’ underlying desires.

A new approach

‘Reducing Desire for Ivory: A Psychosocial Guide to Address Ivory Consumption’ suggests a new approach to help address the psychological and social factors that motivate people to buy ivory.

With a focus on China – the world’s largest ivory market – the guide navigates the complex forces that create consumer desire for ivory – from cultural and social influences to an individual’s experiences and emotions.

It’s hoped that understanding consumers’ unconscious and unspoken desires will help conservationists, governments and campaign leaders in their ivory demand reduction efforts, and put an end to a wildlife crime that claims the lives of around 20,000 elephants per year.

‘The single biggest driver fuelling elephant poaching is consumer demand for ivory. This guide offers a new approach that focuses on identifying the underlying motives of ivory consumers and how to redirect these. We’re eager to see this approach put into action now.’

Senior director for advocacy and wildlife conservation at WWF

Psychosocial insights

Developed with psychosocial researcher and communications strategist Dr Renee Lertzman, the guide marks conservation’s first-ever application of psychosocial insights to the global wildlife crime crisis.

‘We can engage consumers and inspire behaviour change by better understanding who we are talking to and what drives them. By applying behavioural and neurosciences, we have reframed our understanding of the core challenge as reducing ‘consumer desire’ rather than simply reducing ‘consumer demand’, a shift we believe will be critical to really drive change.’

Psychosocial researcher and communications strategist

Wider applications

The guide comes at a pivotal moment in the fight to save wild elephants. Just last month, China’s government announced it will ban all domestic ivory trade by December 2017.

WWF expects the guide will support this goal and provide a tool to combat residual demand for ivory that persists after China’s ban is enacted.

It will also lay the foundation to apply psychosocial concepts to other wildlife issues. WWF is making the guide available to government, academic and conservation community partners in the United States and overseas.

Click here to read the guide, ‘Reducing Desire for Ivory: A Psychosocial Guide to Address Ivory Consumption’.

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