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Endangering Animals Is Hazardous to Your Health

What Wildlife Advocates Can Learn From Public Health Campaigns

Conservation officials gather elephant tusks to be destroyed as part of a campaign against poaching in Bangkok, Thailand, August 2015 Chaiwat Subprasom / REUTERS

In recent years, the illicit wildlife trade has expanded to unmatched proportions. The traffic in animal parts gravely threatens global biodiversity and entire ecosystems. Those who partake in it do so to meet the demand for wildlife products used in everything from foods and medications to clothing and decorations. Reducing the demand for these products is crucial to stopping the poaching and trafficking of animals. Such strategies will feature prominently at this week’s London summit, where conservationists and public officials will convene to address an increasingly urgent problem.

Campaigns to reduce demand for wildlife products often miss the mark, however. They rely heavily on altruistic messaging, which has been shown to have little influence on people’s behavior—say, posters of baby elephants with messages discouraging ivory use. Television ads featuring local celebrities condemning wildlife consumption do better but are insufficient. Wildlife advocates should look to public health campaigns

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