CHANGING PUBLIC OPINION THROUGH MEDIA AND EDUCATION: INCREASING THE IMPACT OF LAW ENFORCEMENT ON SLOW LORIS TRADE

Rusmadipraja, IA., Muslim, RS., and Sanchez, KL

Law enforcement can be an effective method of reducing illegal wildlife crime (IWT) in Indonesia; however, the repressive effects of police operations that target IWT are often short lived. Market demand is a key driver of a criminal’s return to illegal activities. Slow lorises (Nycticebus sp.), small nocturnal primates found throughout Southeast Asia, are one of the spesies threatened by extinction due to illegal trade.

Since 2008, Yayasan IAR Indonesia (YIARI) has been working to raise the profile of the protected slow loris species in Indonesia. In 2010, YIARI began supporting local authorities with efforts to enforce the law by targeting hunters and traders. Supply-side processes such as poaching comprise a key component of wildlife trade, but so too do consumer preferences that create the demand.

Data was collected from Indonesian wildlife trade groups on Facebook between 2012 until 2018. The number of advertisements wanting to sell (WTS) slow lorises was 5,021, and those indicating a desire to buy (WTB) a slow loris totalled 2,460.

Despite numerous police operations involving slow loris hunters and traders during 2015-16, the large number of adverts would suggest that public perceptions were not impacted significantly. In order achieve long-lasting and sustainable changes in public perception regarding the illegal slow loris trade, it was necessary to initiate educational campaigns for the general public which included exposing the plight of the slow loris in the Indonesian media.

To maximise the impact of law enforcement efforts to a larger audience, IAR’s Education and Media divisions began to systematically post articles about slow lorises online on different platforms; journalists were regularly invited to join in IAR’s activities and publish their stories in magazines or websites (such as slow loris reintroductions), and IAR encouraged law enforcement authorities to carry out press releases every time a slow loris confiscation occurred or a trader was arrested or prosecuted.

Throughout 2016, 139 online news articles related to slow lorises were published, covering education, rescue and law enforcement news. The number of online publications increased the following year to 164 articles in 2017, and 178 articles in 2018.

In 2017, despite numbers of WTS posts increasing, WTB advertisements for slow lorises dropped dramatically compared to 2016. This declining trend of WTB posts ultimately began to affect sales and in 2018 the numbers of both WTS and WTB posts reduced drastically. Here we demonstrate how media can be used, in combination with law enforcement efforts, to impact and shape public opinion positively in the long term to help combat wildlife crime.