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17 June 2019 Souvenirs, Shells, and the Illegal Wildlife Trade
Vincent Nijman
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Shells are often seen as portable souvenirs, and both domestic and international tourists bring shells home. While part of this activity concerns individual tourists collecting a small number of shells on the beach, another part concerns large-scale commercial trade. Each year the Indonesian beach resort of Pangandaran is visited by several million tourists, most from within Indonesia. Here, I focus on the commercial trade in large-sized shells for decorative purposes and, using an anthropological approach, gain insight into the trade in marine mollusk shells of the area. A number of the large-shelled species are rare and over-exploited, and receive different levels of protection. By comparing three pairs of similar species, in which one species is legally protected (i.e., on Indonesia's protected species list) and the other is not, I attempt to gauge how rarity and protection affects trade. Protected species were as openly displayed as non-protected species, and more shops offered the protected than the unprotected species. The Indonesian shell trade involves a complex and organized network of collectors, transporters, middlemen, and sellers. Traders indicated that they purchased shells from middlemen, who obtained them from eastern Indonesia; no shells were collected in the Pangandaran area. The main buyers of these large shells are domestic Indonesian tourists. Pangandaran is a trade hub for shells to meet the demands of an urban consumer market in Java. While protected, there is no social stigma in buying these shells, nor do traders that display them run the risk of prosecution, indicating a lack of support for protective and regulatory measures.

Vincent Nijman "Souvenirs, Shells, and the Illegal Wildlife Trade," Journal of Ethnobiology 39(2), 282-296, (17 June 2019).
Published: 17 June 2019

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natural resource use
wildlife trade
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