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In the last post I mentioned that 'education' campaigns are an increasingly popular way to try to reduce demand for endangered species in Asia. The problem is that it's very opaque as to what they're achieving. My last post showed a billboard up in a small border town in Yunnan from before the Beijing Olympics. Species like tigers and elephants were targeted in these campaigns. In the late 1990s The ACAP (Active Conservation Awareness Program) was started, which showed graphic TC ads in Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Mainland China. This program has continued. Charismatic spokespersons- like Jackie Chan- were recruited into these campaigns.

So, why have these had so little impact on curbing demand?

Well, one major reason is that these are very broad-brush campaigns. As I've mentioned earlier, nobody has ever caught a final consumer of tiger-parts inside China. So education campaigns have to be broad-brush because we don't know what motivates these consumers and where they're located. And for that reason, it's quite easy to miss the target audience completely.

The second problem is more sinister. It comes down to the message that gets communicated. If we have a lot of people in China who really had no or little awareness that tiger-bone had a medicinal purpose, then these campaigns act as a constant reminder that does have an (alleged) medicinal function. They are made more aware that they could be taking tiger-bone medicines for their ailments. This would be a sad and perverse outcome of these efforts.