The role of Chinese cultural values in illegal wildlife trade interventions

August 05, 2020

A new study by the University of Kent's Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) suggests that utilising Confucianist, Daoist, and Buddhist belief messaging in targeted campaigns could effectively change the behaviour of end consumers in the East Asia illegal wildlife trade chain.

Behavioural change intervention is essential for reducing the demand of illegal wildlife products. With so many conservation campaigns typically approached from the perspective of Western culture, the impact could be limited in different cultures. East Asia is a primary market for many illegal wildlife products such as rosewood, ivory, and pangolin scales and so is often targeted with conservation campaigns, but with limited effect.

The research led by Laura Thomas-Walters, a PhD student studying Conservation Biology at DICE, has identified that resonating with Chinese-influenced societies through cultural values could be most effective for tailoring the messaging in illegal wildlife trade campaigns in East Asia. While China alone has 56 recognised ethnic groups, Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism have dominated traditional Chinese ideology.

The study highlighted eight cultural concepts to target messaging around; Harmony (the balance of yin and yang), Jian (frugality), Junzi (an exemplary person), Li (ritual propriety), Qi (the material force of the universe), Ren (inner moral force, humaneness), Shu (altruism) and Zhong (conscientiousness).

For example, in regards to the concept of harmony, messaging could be based around unsustainable product use and the imbalance between humans and nature when species such as pangolins disappear from nature. While in regards to Ren, messaging could reinforce the concept of connection and unity with nature by relating the kindness of humanity to include wildlife.

Laura Thomas-Walters said: 'Chinese culture has a long history of consumptive wildlife use and conservationists have struggled to engage Chinese-influenced societies with illegal wildlife trade campaigns. This study suggests routes that could be taken to target these societies more specifically. Yet, it's important to consider that when designing an intervention, respect rather than judgement is essential, and the involvement of a local partnership or regional expertise is recommended.'
The paper titled, 'Targeted values: The relevance of classical Chinese philosophy for illegal wildlife demand reduction campaigns' is published in People & Nature. DOI: 10.1002/pan3.10127 Weblink:

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Notes to Editors

The University of Kent is a leading UK university producing world-class research, rated internationally excellent and leading the way in many fields of study. Our 20,000 students are based at campuses and centres in Canterbury, Medway, Brussels, Paris, and Tonbridge.

With 97% of our research judged to be of international quality in the most recent Research Assessment Framework (REF2014), our students study with some of the most influential thinkers in the world. Universities UK recently named research from the University as one of the UK's 100 Best Breakthroughs of the last century for its significant impact on people's everyday lives.

We are renowned for our inspirational teaching. Awarded a gold rating, the highest, in the UK Government's Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), we were presented with the Outstanding Support for Students award at the 2018 Times Higher Education (THE) Awards for the second year running.

Our graduates are equipped for a successful future allowing them to compete effectively in the global job market. More than 95% of graduates find a job or study opportunity within six months.

Known as the 'UK's European university', our international outlook is a major focus and we believe in our students developing a global perspective. Many of our courses provide opportunities to study or work abroad; we have partnerships with more than 400 universities worldwide and are the only UK university to have postgraduate centres in Athens, Brussels, Paris and Rome.

The University is a truly international community with over 40% of our academics coming from outside the UK and our students representing over 150 nationalities.

We are a major economic force in south east England, supporting innovation and enterprise. We are worth £0.9 billion to the economy of the south east and support more than 9,400 jobs in the region.

In March 2018, the Government and Health Education England (HEE) announced that the joint bid by the University of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University for funded places to establish a medical school has been successful. The first intake of undergraduates to the Kent and Medway Medical School will be in September 2020.

We are proud to be part of Canterbury, Medway and the county of Kent and, through collaboration with partners, work to ensure our global ambitions have a positive impact on the region's academic, cultural, social and economic landscape.

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