Buying and Selling Illegal Wildlife Flourishes Online
The United States and Sweden proposed regulating the red and pink coral trade, but the proposal was defeated. The coral is made into jewelry that’s sold mainly on the Internet. Japan, Iceland, Indonesia and Malaysia argued that the corals are necessary for the survival of local fishing communities.
Delegates did approve a proposal for tougher legislation to protect endangered tigers. Britain called for better control of tiger farms and a plan to “phase out traditional medicine markets which fuel demand for tiger parts,” Casey reported.
“There seems to be little evidence that there are commercial operations using the Internet,” Sellar said. “Although the risks may be small depending on which country you are living in, you can be identified when using the Internet. So there are clearly risks there.”
But a CITES committee supported an e-commerce proposal that asked governments to draft rules to address the online animal trade and requested that law enforcement agencies create a unit dedicated to animal trade on the Internet.
The Kaiser’s spotted newt, found only in Iran, is an example of how the Web can help to decimate a species. According to Wildlife Extra, there are believed to be less than 1,000 mature newts in the wild, but their “numbers have declined by more than 80 percent in recent years.”
“The Internet itself isn’t the threat, but it’s another way to market the product,” Ernie Cooper of TRAFFIC Canada told AP. “The Kaiser's spotted newt, for example, is expensive and most people are not willing to pay $300 for a salamander. But through the power of the Internet, tapping into the global market, you can find buyers.”
An International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) study, conducted from November 2004 to January 2005, discovered thousands of endangered animals and animal parts available for sale online. Animal trading sites, auction sites like eBay and even chat rooms were host to live wild animals and animal products.
“This has been a problem for a long time but it’s becoming worse because of the internet opening up new markets and globalization,” IFAW spokesman Chris Cutter told Metz.
An IFAW study in 2008 found more than 7,000 species sold on auction sites, chat rooms and classified ads, totaling $3.8 million in sales. Most of the sales took place in the United States, but also in Europe, Australia, Russia and China, AP reported. Illegal African ivory is the most popular item, but rare birds, pelts from protected species such as leopards and polar bears, and products such as tiger-bone wine are also available.