Daniel Bergin has researched the illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade, in both physical markets and online, for the past 10 years in countries such as China, Japan, Myanmar, Belgium, Nigeria, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam. His most recently published paper, in the journal Nature, examined how to persuade people in countries where the trade flourishes to avoid consuming wildlife products, and in turn reduce the likelihood of another pandemic.
Reducing a lucrative trade estimated to be worth between US$7 and US$23 billion a year calls for a two-pronged approach, Bergin says: enforcing and improving existing wildlife trade laws, and reducing consumer demand by changing social norms around the acceptability of consuming wild animals. Doing only one of these things greatly limits the effectiveness of conservation, he says.
Bergin spent time as a safari guide in South Africa before completing his doctorate at Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom where he continues to collaborate with the Oxford Wildlife Trade Research Group on wildlife trade projects. Having spent several years focusing on the supply side of the wildlife trade – visiting wildlife markets and interacting with sellers to understand more about the dynamics of trade – Bergin has shifted his focus to consumer demand reduction.
He is now associate director at GlobeScan, a global insights and advisory consultancy. His job involves mining information for non-governmental organisations to use in campaigns that will encourage behavioural change to help lessen or stop the trade in, for example, elephant ivory and pangolin scales.
Here, Bergin offers a glimpse into his typical working day trying to understand why people consume wildlife, and what can be done to stop them.