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IFAW Report

REPORT: Wanted – Dead or Alive - Exposing Online Wildlife Trade

The shocking scale of online wildlife trade shows that the internet poses a real threat to wildlife.The shocking scale of online wildlife trade shows that the internet poses a real threat to wildlife.
Today, IFAW releases the report Wanted – Dead or Alive; Exposing Online Wildlife Trade and the scale of the trade is truly staggering.

In just six weeks in early 2014 our skilled investigators found 33,006 live wild animals and their parts and products available for sale on 280 online marketplaces in 16 different countries.

Now I am aware we are in danger of being desensitised to statistics but just stop and think about it – that’s over 33,000 wild animals and their body parts being sold in a scant 42 days, in  a limited few countries.

Take that figure and then imagine how many wild animals suffer for this needless trade across all the countries of the globe every day of the year. If you are like me, you’ll be reeling by the discovery that the World Wide Web puts so many endangered animals at risk from trade.

Our investigators looked specifically at trade in species which are given degrees of protection from over exploitation by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

They focused on wildlife and their parts and products sold only over online marketplaces in Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

We also limited our investigations to ‘open source’ websites, those that are freely available and can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection.

 The investigation found 9,482 advertisements of CITES Appendix I and II species which were conservatively estimated to be worth almost 11milllion USD.  

An astonishing 54 per cent of the advertisements were for live wildlife some, or possibly many, of which will be sent by courier to those who purchase them.

Ivory, reptiles and birds were the most widely traded items, with ivory and suspected ivory featuring in almost one-third of all advertisements while reptiles accounted for one-quarter of the items for sale.

Ivory and suspected ivory accounted for 3,047 advertisements with many examples of traders seeking to disguise their items using code words so as to avoid being caught by eBay and other companies that ban online trade in ivory.

My role was to lead the team and I was appalled by the numbers of items reported back to me but it’s learning about the individual advertisements that really hits home.

In addition to ivory and suspected ivory IFAW investigators found many types of turtles and tortoises for sale as well as rhino horn, tiger bone carvings, teeth and claws, live exotic birds including macaws and amazon parrots, live frogs including poison dart frogs, lizards including geckos, live cheetahs and primates including baboons, chimpanzees and marmosets, bear and polar bear parts…the list could go on and on.

Like it or not, much of the online and offline trade in wildlife and their parts is completely legal, but  our investigators had grave concerns that a significant number of ads had been placed by wildlife cybercriminals.

Our concerns were so great, that we submitted the most suspect findings – all 1,192 of them - to enforcement agencies for further investigation.

These suspect items numbered almost 13 per cent of the total number of advertisements we looked at.

In the past IFAW intelligence has led to direct enforcement action being taken and we are confident this shared information will enable enforcers to step up their efforts to deter online wildlife crime.

The shocking scale of online wildlife trade shows that the internet poses a real threat to wildlife at a time when poaching levels are reaching unprecedented levels. IFAW is urging governments, policy makers, law enforcers and online marketplaces to tackle wildlife cybercrime head on.

Governments must ensure they have robust laws in place that specifically tackle the unique challenges of wildlife cybercrime supported by sufficient enforcement capacity, while online marketplaces must commit to strong policies that stop the trade in wildlife and their parts and products, ensuring that these policies are effectively implemented to prevent their platforms being abused by wildlife criminals.

Lastly, consumers must be made aware of the devastating cost of wildlife crime. Online marketplaces can provide an opportunity to improve consumer awareness, as some customers may not be aware that trade in endangered wildlife and their parts and products is regulated by law.

If you don’t buy they won’t die.

We need your help to convince governments and website companies to crackdown on wildlife cybercriminals. Click here to find out what you can do in your country to ensure that wild animals remain on this earth for future generations to enjoy.


Learn more about our efforts to combat online wildlife crime, visit our campaign page.

About Tania McCrea-Steele

Tania McCrea-Steele, Campaigns and Enforcement Manager, IFAW UK

Tania McCrea-Steele is the Campaigns and Enforcement Manager for IFAW UK.Tania has been with IFAW since 2004 and currently manages our global campaign to stop online wildlife crime and also...See more »

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