New study highlights beliefs in bid to reduce demand for ivory and tiger parts in Thailand

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USAID Wildlife Asia study focuses on demand reduction through better understanding of consumers' beliefs.
USAID Wildlife Asia study focuses on demand reduction through better understanding of consumers' beliefs.

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

BANGKOK –  Although relatively limited, the demand for ivory and tiger products in Thailand is largely driven by affluent, established business owners and merchants who believe purchasing wildlife products can bring good fortune and status, according to a new consumer research and demand reduction report released today.

Commissioned by the U.S. Agency for International Development Wildlife Asia (USAID Wildlife Asia) project, the Quantitative and Qualitative Study of Consumer Demand for Wildlife Products in Thailand also found that traditional beliefs regarding the protective and prestige-enhancement benefits of ivory and tiger parts entice Thais to buy wildlife products.

“Understanding what influences consumer behavior is an important step to reducing demand for ivory and tiger products in Thailand,” said Richard Goughnour, Director of USAID’s Regional Development Mission for Asia. “By targeting current and potential consumers, we can implement more effective messaging and campaigns based on what motivates and drives their desire for ivory and tiger parts and help put an end to the trade in illegal wildlife.”

The report summarizes the first comprehensive research conducted on consumer demand for ivory products since 2015, and the first-ever consumer research on tiger demand conducted in Thailand. The study was conducted in collaboration with Chulalongkorn University and Ipsos, a market research organization.

Although the report found that ivory is perceived as the “perfect gift”’ and tiger products as the “protector,” the results also suggest the incidence of ivory and tiger product use among Thailand’s population is 2 percent and 1 percent respectively. Consumers of both ivory and tiger tend to be 40 years or older and affluent. Sacred images, small carvings and amulets are the most popular ivory and tiger items purchased. Ivory accessories and jewelry, because they are beautiful and attractive, remain popular with female consumers. However, tiger consumers are predominately male.

The value of illegal wildlife crime globally is estimated to be between $5 billion and $23 billion annually. 

Consumers purchase ivory and tiger products at jewelry stores, amulet markets or temples, large bazaars or through relatives or friends. Online platforms are important channels to find and exchange information on ivory and tiger products for sale. Online information is obtained from other buyers or traders, and once information is exchanged online, the purchase is generally done offline or, in some instances, through online platforms including Facebook and Line.

According to Thailand’s Elephant Ivory Tusks Act, trade in domestic ivory within Thailand is legal but all trade in African ivory is illegal. Tiger trade is illegal based on the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act. Ivory and tiger consumers seem confused about the legal issues regarding ivory and tiger products. Many are not sure whether the small items they own are legal. They agree, however, that ivory from wild Thai and African elephants and wild tiger products from Thailand and other countries are illegal.

“The findings of this research show that the fight to counter the illegal wildlife trade needs the involvement of many other sectors of Thai society,” said Mr. Pinsak Suraswadi, Deputy Director General of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. “To effectively tackle this issue, it is crucial to strengthen a network with related and like-minded partners and improve collaboration with other countries.”

The online study included a representative sample of 1,000 Thai citizens between the ages of 18 and 64, with a margin of error of 5 percent.

Review the presentation here: 

See photos from the dissemination workshop here: