discussion / Wildlife Crime  / 3 April 2017

Using social media to survey exotic pet owners

Hi All,

I'm currently completing my masters project and I'm looking at reducing demand amongst exotic pet owners. I'm thinking of using social media to assess the right audience and get a good sample to take my survey - has anyone got any experience of how to do this or information on how social media is being used for wildlife crime? 

The key channels I want to use are Facebook, Instagram, 4Sale & Whatsapp

Any thoughts greatly appreciated!



Hi Lindsey,

You might be interested in some of the solutions developed in last year's Zoohackathon. The first one that comes to mind is PoPo Pango, a chatbot to collect crowdsourced inforomation about local wildlife trafficking markets, and 'Don't Eat that', a facebook bot that offers travellers info about illegal wildlife products. Not precisely your area of interest, but these may hold some info that could be of use.

@Hikayie - I wonder if you might have any lessons to share that could help Lindsey from your work with the WIldlife Witness app

Another community member, @Amy+H is giving a talk today about online wildlife trade in Cambridge at the David Attenborough Building. 

12.00 on Tuesday 4th April  on Online wildlife trade: methods to find out what is sold, who is buying it, and what this means for conservation by Amy Hinsley.

Amy Hinsley is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Oxford Martin School on Illegal Wildlife Trade where she is looking at disentangling the interacting legal and illegal markets for bear bile in China. She is interested in the reasons why people choose to collect, trade and buy wildlife products, and completed her PhD at DICE looking at the use of the internet in the international orchid trade.

Amy might have some insights that could be of value for shaping your approach? 




Thanks @StephODonnell for the mention, 

Our study (TRAFFIC) has shown that the social media used is really dependent on the country. Some countries prefer Facebook, other Instagram, there are other options such as WeChat and Blackberry Messenger, but these require more private access. 

Another issue is the language, you will get more in the local language of each country compared to English. This is something that has been overlooked. 

But if you want to use Facebook and Instagram, you already have a lot of going on and a big story there. I would suggest that as the easiest and most accessible one. 

We found that manual surveys (Taking screenshots and manually entering data into excel) is good to get a general idea of what is going on, but not effective to capture information such as market turn over, or how much increase/ decrease in demand and offer there is. 
Many groups that work in data mining and machine learning have also come up with methods to automatically extract data. I know a group in NYU is even developing an app to monitor the online market: https://news.mongabay.com/wildtech/2016/10/egi-filling-in-the-gaps-in-law-enforcement-for-the-online-wildlife-trade/

Just a little note from me, is to ensure that you are also taking into considerations privacy matters when you publish. It is still not clear on the regulations of how to use data uploaded in social media. And it's also country specific on the legal aspects of that. 

Anyway, I am more than happy to talk more if you need to. PM me if needed and we can chat more 

Hope this helps



You might also want to consider WeChat as a key channel. I know that it is very commonly used to trade wildlife in China and Vietnam. It is more of a texting service, however, so I'm not sure if that would be in the scope.