Reducing illegal Wildlife trade through a social media campaign
The illegal wildlife trade dramatically affects the survival of endangered species globally, and thus tackling poaching and the trade that fuels it continues to be a transnational challenge. Lao PDR is a key focal point and a priority market for this challenge with a continued and significant supply of ivory-based products, rhino horn (stemming from poaching in Africa), wildlife trafficking, and an ongoing demand for such products from both domestic consumers and tourists to the country. Therefore, the issuance of government policy documents (such as the Prime Minister Order No. 05/2018) aimed to reduce illegal wildlife trade and improve CITES implementation. This has built the foundations to support the Lao Government in fighting illegal wildlife trade in Laos.
Since April 2019, the project Protection and Sustainable use of Ecosystem and Biodiversity “ProFEB” has collaborated with the global programme “Partnership against wildlife crime in Africa and Asia” and implemented pilot measures in Laos targeting behaviour change of consumers and demand reduction of illegal wildlife products. One of the pilot interventions currently being implemented is a social media campaign following a behaviour change approach.
This campaign aims to positively influence the enforcement of existing counter-wildlife trafficking regulations and legislation. It requires targeting those who hold influential roles in society. These include senior policymakers – and their wider social networks of friends, family, and peers. The ultimate objective is to effectively protect wild flora and fauna in Lao PDR from trafficking and destruction through better enforcement and greater public accountability.
Top political leaders must find the will and incentive to issue public support and, ideally, legal decrees to close illegal wildlife trade (IWT) loopholes.
To achieve the policy changes at the national level, the campaign design was adapted to the Lao culture and local context. Therefore, an informal cooperation network between IWT partners from Government, international NGOs and national Civil Society Organisations was initiated, which supported the design and development of the campaign products and will be part of the rollout.
To highlight the importance of fighting IWT, “environmental champions” from politics, private sector and civil society were selected to make public statements in the form of videos, infographics and a call to action that will be shared on social media platforms. These “environmental champions” will showcase their contribution to wildlife protection and conservation work. Their stories are designed to inspire the audience and encourage them to support the campaign on their own. Additionally, champions will support the campaign by sharing its posts on their own Facebook channels and advocating for its key messages.
By running a counter-wildlife trafficking public campaign coupled with a focused advocacy effort targeting the peer groups of influencers and leaders, we will be able to generate conversations to encourage their senior colleagues and family members by nudging them to enforce CWT policy and loopholes. Ultimately, wild animals and other parts of nature are effectively protected in Lao PDR from trafficking and destruction through better enforcement and attention.
The campaign will be launched with the governmental partner, the Department of Forest Inspection, in March 2023 and will last for 9 months.
Maniphet Chounlamany — Coordinator for the Country Package “Partnership against wildlife crime in Africa and Asia”
Protection and Sustainable Use of Forest Ecosystems and Biodiversity (ProFEB)
Social media, Illegal Wildlife Trade, Policymakers, counter-wildlife trafficking