Sign up for the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference Comms Exchange

Blog post by Katie Spenceley

Tuesday 13 November 2018

The Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference, held 11-12 October, bought together stakeholders from around the world to tackle the crime of wildlife trafficking. Join the GCS Comms Exchange on 27 November to find out more.

An elephant and calf

The British public love animals. Lions are emblazoned on football shirts, children read stories of tigers that come to tea and millions of people tune in to watch the latest David Attenborough documentary.

And yet, some of the world’s greatest animals like the elephant, the tiger and the rhino are being killed and sold in a trade that is funded by corruption and criminal gangs. These are the same gangs that traffic drugs, humans and weapons. The same gangs that undermine good government and the rule of law.

And it’s not just the most well-known animals that suffer this cruel fate: lesser-known but equally remarkable creatures like the pangolin (which has the tragic moniker of the world’s most trafficked animal) are being smuggled in their thousands to satisfy demand for medicines and exotic food in different parts of the world, particularly China.

This vile and immoral trade was what the Government – spearheaded by DEFRA, FCO and DfID – set out to tackle by hosting a major international conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade in October this year.

As a cross-HMG communications team we took on a huge challenge: how were we to promote and engage audiences in an issue and a conference that covers multiple countries and hundreds of species of animals and plants? How could we make a tangible difference to such a complex, international problem?

We challenged ourselves to be focussed on the areas where we could make an impact and help to deliver HMG policy, but also to think big – exemplified in our campaign hashtag #endwildlifecrime. We set ourselves ambitious goals, aiming to work with high-profile celebrities and influencers, and contribute towards shifting attitudes in countries where demand for IWT products is high.

We also allowed ourselves the freedom to come up with creative and engaging ideas. We branded a British Airways plane with our campaign hashtag, worked with supermodel Gisele to promote the conference, and partnered with an Non-Governmental Organisation in Tanzania to tell the story of the amazing giant rats helping to sniff out trafficked animals in shipping containers.

The FCO’s overseas network of Embassies and High Commissions played a pivotal role in promoting the conference, showing the UK’s leadership and driving attendance at the conference. Without their efforts we would never have got delegations from over 80 countries to attend.

As the conference wraps up, we’re hosting a GCS Comms Exchange on 27 November to share our experiences of running a large-scale campaign – things like: how to plan, how to manage a large campaign team, what we’ve learned, and what we wish we’d known before we started.

Sign up on Eventbrite to join us at the Foreign Office to find out more!

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