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Countering Transnational Wildlife Trafficking in Southeast Asia and China

The USAID Reducing Demand for Wildlife project combatted transnational environmental crime by addressing both the supply and demand for illegal wildlife parts and products


Protect biodiversity and disrupt transnational organized crime by countering wildlife trafficking (CWT).


Reduced demand for wildlife and wildlife products through social and behavior change communication campaigns, while reducing supply by strengthening rational, comprehensive regulatory sand enforcement systems.


From 2021-2023, the project reduced consumer demand for wildlife products by 24%, built country and regional collaboration to combat transnational environmental crime, and expanded the evidence base around what works for CWT.

Despite a global pandemic and the inherent challenges to tackling transnational environmental crime, USAID Wildlife Asia made notable strides towards reducing both the demand for and the supply of wildlife and wildlife products in Southeast Asia and China during its five-year lifespan. With the project’s end in January 2022, a new project, USAID Reducing Demand for Wildlife (RDW), continued the fight against wildlife trafficking in Southeast Asia, while also incorporating lessons learned from the previous five years of implementation.

Achievements By the Numbers

Graphic showing the results of USAID's Reducing Demand for Wildlife initiative

Credit: USAID Reducing Demand for Wildlife

An approach to biodiversity protection on a macro and micro level

At the societal level, this biodiversity protection project carried forward an emphasis on behavior change, continuing to focus on demand reduction for products derived from elephants, pangolins, rhinoceroses, and tigers. At the enforcement level, USAID RDW implemented sustainable wildlife conservation solutions to address gaps in countering wildlife trafficking (CWT). It also strengthened policies, legislation, and the enforcement of laws prohibiting wildlife trade. USAID RDW built international cooperation and fostered public-private partnerships, all with the goal of reducing the supply side of wildlife trafficking.

Countering wildlife trafficking amidst global changes and challenges

In light of the enormous and ever-changing impacts of COVID-19 and climate change, as well as substantial changes in the context of countering wildlife crime, USAID RDW’s approach was as adaptable as it was strategic and methodical. Acutely aware of the impact of social, cultural, and gender norms within this space, the project identified mechanisms for greater engagement of civil society and marginalized groups, in addition to measuring the effectiveness of social and behavior change communication (SBCC) campaign messaging on consumer behavior. With the goal of promoting both an inclusive and a sustainable regional movement, the work to combat wildlife trafficking and promote biodiversity prioritized gender balance and social inclusion across all aspects of implementation, promoting female leadership whenever possible.

Series of wildlife photos: a tiger, an elephant, a pangolin, and a rhino.

Reducing wildlife demand through social and behavior change communication campaigns

Given the demonstrated success of evidence based SBCC campaigns, the project focused on magnifying and expanding SBCC campaign reach. It also promoted SBCC as a key approach to change attitudes, social norms, and purchase intent surrounding wildlife parts and products serving as a cornerstone of CWT. To support others engaged in these efforts, USAID RDW captured and disseminated lessons learned by sharing research, data, and conclusions to inform national and regional counterparts and decision-makers, as well as pursuing opportunities for synergy and joint action.

In addition to continuing existing SBCC campaigns, the project developed and tested new campaigns for travelers who were intent on buying illegal wildlife products in other countries. The project established and applied messages and principles for maximizing the potential for these campaign techniques to reduce demand for wild meat and wildlife products, thereby also curbing a significant pathway for exposure to zoonotic pathogens and spillover.

Developing best practices for countering wildlife trafficking

Using the wealth of data collected under USAID Wildlife Asia, USAID RDW continued to develop and solidify best practices and tools for CWT practitioners to adopt. The project incorporated digital technology to precisely target campaign audiences and monitor campaign impact. Understanding the importance of private sector buy-in for maximized campaign reach and influence, the project actively engaged partners in media, tourism, and other crucial sectors throughout implementation. Building on a strong foundation of respect and established relationships, USAID RDW continued to engage a wide range of stakeholders at all stages of SBCC campaign implementation, thereby strengthening CWT cooperation and collaboration across all sectors and levels of society.

Reducing wildlife supply through rational, comprehensive regulatory and enforcement systems

A top priority of this project was working collaboratively to meet shared development goals—chiefly, promoting a more resilient, inclusive, and secure Southeast Asia. In the interest of strengthening regional institutions, the project facilitated collaboration between non-governmental organizations, civil society, and the private sector, partnering with local institutions, supporting bilateral USAID missions, and elevating local leadership in wildlife and environmental law enforcement. Private sector partnerships were crucial to maximizing impact by leveraging expertise, assets, technologies, networks, and resources.

By integrating private sector support to counter wildlife trafficking, the project increased third party commitment to reducing demand for endangered and illegal wildlife, thereby maximizing the results, continuity, and sustainability of the work.

Understanding the importance of government cooperation, the project sought out opportunities to support and convene policymakers, legislators, enforcement officials, prosecutors, and judges to review the region’s wildlife regulatory and enforcement systems. This work was primarily done through regional bodies, such as the working groups of the ASEAN Secretariat, the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), ASEANAPOL, the Asian Judges Network for the Environment, and other judicial bodies. In this way, the project provided a bridge between existing policy, legislative, and enforcement frameworks across multiple countries, and supported regional leadership in developing plans and priorities, while setting a precedent for sharing lessons learned surrounding CWT.

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