Heterogeneity in consumer preferences for orchids in international trade and the potential for the use of market research methods to study demand for wildlife

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Hinsley, Amy ; Veríssimo, Diogo ; Roberts, David L. (2015)
  • Publisher: Elsevier
  • Journal: Biological Conservation, volume 190, pages 80-86 (issn: 0006-3207)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2015.05.010
  • Subject: QH75 | Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics | HB | QK | Nature and Landscape Conservation | HF5415 | SB

The demand for wildlife products drives an illegal trade estimated to be worth up to $10 billion per year, ranking it amongst the top transnational crimes in terms of value. Orchids are one of the best-selling plants in the legal horticultural trade but are also traded illegally and make up 70% of all species listed by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). To study consumer preferences for horticultural orchids we use choice experiments to survey 522 orchid buyers online and at large international orchid shows. Using latent class modelling we show that different groups of consumers in our sample have distinct preferences, and that these groups are based on gender, genera grown, online purchasing and type of grower. Over half of our sample, likely to be buyers of mass-produced orchids, prefer white, multi-flowered plants. Of greater conservation interest were a smaller group consisting of male hobbyist growers who buy their orchids online, and who were willing to pay significantly more for species that are rare in trade. This is the first in-depth study of consumer preferences in the international orchid trade and our findings confirm the importance of rarity as a driver of hobbyist trade. We show that market-research methods are a new tool for conservationists that could provide evidence for more effective conservation of species threatened by trade, especially via campaigns that focus on demand reduction or behaviour change.
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