Influencing Wildlife Consumer Behaviour

For my doctorate I was most interested in applying an understanding of human behaviour to address the demand end of wildlife trade, as demand reduction is recognised as being key to long-term survival of global wildlife. Through this work I wanted to assess the psychological, cultural, and fiscal drivers behind human use of wildlife products, and ascertain how we could use these drivers to develop thorough, implementable methods to successfully reduce unsustainable human behaviour. Additionally, I strove to promote conservation efforts that have a higher likelihood of success by being shaped and executed with the same meticulous thread that all scientific research strives for.

Specifically, I developed, implemented, and evaluated a country-level behaviour change intervention on saiga horn consumers in Singapore. The saiga is a Critically Endangered antelope from Central Asia whose horn is used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to treat fever and heatiness (a TCM state of illness with symptoms like cough).

Through this work I:
1) produced rigorous and repeatable methods for assessing demand of a wildlife product;
2) gained an understanding of the behavioural drivers behind this usage, primarily through the integration of empirical evidence with theory and literature from public health and social psychology;
3) implemented an innovative large-scale consumer intervention using online techniques and concepts from information-spreading literature; and
4) exemplified a multi-pronged, mixed-methods, approach to robustly evaluate the impact of an online intervention on offline behaviour.

With this research I hope to help maximise the effectiveness of future demand reduction efforts, and set a precedent for imbuing time-sensitive conservation works with academic rigour. This research was part of the Oxford Martin School Programme on Illegal Wildlife Trade, and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science in the Department of Zoology, at the University of Oxford.

Research team in Singapore (2017)

H Doughty, EJ Milner-Gulland, JSH Lee, K Oliver, LR Carrasco, D Veríssimo (accepted). Evaluating a large-scale online behaviour change intervention aimed at wildlife product consumers in Singapore.

H Doughty, K Oliver, D Veríssimo, JSH Lee, EJ Milner-Gulland (2021). Using theory and evidence to design behaviour change interventions for reducing unsustainable wildlife consumption. People and Nature.

H Doughty, J Wright, D Veríssimo, JSH Lee, EJ Milner-Gulland (2020). Strategic advertising of online news articles as an intervention to influence wildlife product consumers. Conservation Science and Practice. DOI: 10.1111/csp2.272.

H Doughty, D Veríssimo, R Tan, JSH Lee, LR Carrasco, K Oliver, EJ Milner-Gulland (2019). Saiga horn user characteristics, motivations, and purchasing behaviour in Singapore. PLOS ONE. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0222038.

H Cheung, H Doughty, … D Biggs (2020). Understanding Traditional Chinese Medicine to strengthen conservation outcomes. People and Nature. DOI: 10.1002/pan3.10166

L Thomas-Walters, A Hinsley, D Bergin, G Burgess, H Doughty, … D Veríssimo (2020). Motivations for the use and consumption of wildlife products. Conservation Biology. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.13578.


Policy Brief
Resulting brief of Doughty et al. (2019) used for the 2019 CITES Conference of the Parties. DOI:10.31235/, (brief was discussed by delegates during saiga up-listing discourse)

Selected Blog Articles
Harnessing online tools to save a species (2020)

Beyond regulating trade: understanding the consumers driving saiga horn demand (2019)

A Call to Saiga People (2019)

Selected Talk
Using strategic advertising of online news articles to influence wildlife trade consumers (2020). Recorded presentation detailing the methods and key findings in Doughty et al. (2020)

Guest speaker on The Refractive Thinker Podcast. (2017). I discuss wildlife product use, and how we all play a role in reducing unsustainable practices.