Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Epidemiology & Biostatistics

First Advisor

Gary Smith


The legal and illegal trade in wild animals and their products is a multi-billion dollar industry that threatens the health and well-being of humans and animals alike. The management of the wildlife trade is a crisis-driven area, where decisions are made quickly, and, often, inefficiently. In particular, the regulation and control of the illegal wildlife trade is hampered by a dearth of formal quantitative analysis of the nature of the trade. This thesis represents a preliminary attempt to rectify that knowledge gap. It describes an investigation into the factors that support and promote the trade and is based upon information in two databases: CITES (the legal trade) and HealthMap (the illegal trade). The study 1) quantified the relationship between the illegal wildlife trade and several key factors thought to contribute to the illegal wildlife trade, namely road development, unemployment, and Corruption Perception Index (a score related to the perceived level of corruption); 2) measured the extent to which the product types, origins, destinations, and trade routes in the legal and the illegal wildlife trade are alike; and 3) identified locations to place resources to (a) restrict trade by causing the greatest network destabilization and (b) disseminate an educational message that would cause the greatest impact to the network. Several key factors and the legal trade were associated with the magnitude of various indices of the illegal trade at a country-level, but no generalizable findings can be asserted at this time. With regard to the best placement of regulatory resources, China was key with respect to network disruption and information dissemination targets. This thesis has begun the urgently needed analysis of the complex relationships of the illegal wildlife trade and identified specific ways to bring about change using network science. These findings offer hope for regulatory and enforcement agencies, NGOs, and governments that it will be possible to find more effective ways of combating the illegal wildlife trade and problems it brings with it.

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