Contemporary approaches to stopping the illegal ivory trade: a case study in cultural motivations

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Elephants and their ivory have a rich and long history in Thailand. However, the demand for ivory in Thailand is dramatically affecting elephant populations, particularly African elephants. While the consumption of ivory is banned in most countries, Thailand still allows for domestic consumption, resulting in the mixing of legal and illegal ivory. Understanding the cultural traditions that gives rise to contemporary values and beliefs about the consumption of ivory can provide significant and critical insight into why people consume it. This study argues that greater contextual understanding of cultural beliefs can make awareness campaigns more effective at reducing the consumption of ivory. To understand cultural motivations more deeply, this study uses a sociological perspective, primarily that of Pierre Bourdieu. This provides a more contextual engagement with Thai consumers, reconnects them with cultural values about elephants and their importance in Thai society, and works towards a shift in attitudes about consuming ivory.
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