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Evidence to action: research to address illegal wildlife trade

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 June 2019

Laure Cugniere*
Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
Joss Wright
Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
E.J. Milner-Gulland
Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
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Conservation News
Copyright © Fauna & Flora International 2019 

The Oxford Martin Programme on the Illegal Wildlife Trade ( has launched a key research brief, Evidence to Action: Research to Address Illegal Wildlife Trade ( This brief, addressed to policy makers and practitioners, outlines areas where research evidence can support effective illegal wildlife trade policy, highlights critical uncertainties where research is required, and emphasizes the need for better design and evaluation of interventions that can help improve the effectiveness of efforts to combat illegal wildlife trade. Tools and expertise to improve the evidence base for national and international illegal wildlife trade policy already exist but are underutilized. Tapping into these resources could produce substantive benefits for wildlife conservation and associated sectors, enabling governments to fulfill their obligations under the Sustainable Development Goals and international biodiversity conventions. This could be achieved through enhanced funding support for inter-sectoral research collaborations, engaging researchers in priority setting and programme design, increasing developing country research capacity and engaging researchers and community voices in policy processes.

The Evidence to Action brief is the first of a new set of tools and guidance for researchers and practitioners. The latest addition is a brief reviewing the scale of Darknet Usage in the Illegal Wildlife Trade (, which includes recommendations for researchers and policymakers. The darknet is a network of websites that can be accessed only via special software that hides the details of the user's connection, and allows websites to be hosted without revealing their location or operator. Large-scale darknet marketplaces exist for illegal drugs, firearms, hacking tools, stolen identity documents, and a wide variety of other illicit goods. However, the darknet has not, to date, proven to be an attractive platform for the buying and selling of illegal wildlife products (see also Oryx, 51, 393–394). Despite this, it provides a marketplace of last resort that becomes increasingly attractive over other, more accessible, online services as law enforcement and platform operators enforce policies against trading in illegal wildlife products. This makes the ongoing study of darknet markets an important avenue for research as other policies against online illegal wildlife trading emerge.