GUWAHATI, Nov 30 – Wildlife Trust of India’s international partner International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has brought out a shocking report on the booming murky multi-million-dollar trade in wild animals and their body parts over online marketplaces.
The report, Wanted – Dead or Alive, Exposing Online Wildlife Trade – raises questions on the legality of many advertisements offering endangered species for sale in cyberspace. Released in London, the six-week investigative report found a total of 33,006 endangered wildlife and wildlife parts and products for sale via 280 online market places across 16 countries.
The report solicits stronger legislation that specifically targets online wildlife crime and must encourage and support their enforcement agencies in making sure wildlife cyber criminals are apprehended and prosecuted.
Azzedine Downes, president and CEO, IFAW, said that more than 1,00,000 elephants had lost their lives to ivory poachers in the past three years, while in 2013 more than 1,000 rhinoceros were killed by poachers for their horns in South Africa alone.
“This new IFAW report found that ivory or suspected ivory made up more than 32 per cent of all wildlife animals and products for sale, while reptiles came in a close second at over 26 per cent. Live animals for sale featured in 54 per cent of the adverts, and 46 per cent were for parts and products of wildlife. The value of the items investigated totaled nearly US$11-million,” said Downes.
IFAW found the legality of almost 13 per cent – 1,192 – of the 9,482 advertisements investigated was sufficiently doubtful to warrant turning these over to law enforcers for further examination. However this may only be the tip of the iceberg as investigators were careful not to deluge enforcers with reports of potential wildlife crime. The IFAW investigation focuses on the “surface-web” namely open-source websites commonly referred to as online marketplaces, where products are freely available to the public.
Tania McCrea-Steele, IFAW Global Internet Wildlife Trade Team Leader, who spearheaded the investigation, said the number and demand for live animals, parts and products found by the Wanted – Dead or Alive, Exposing Online Wildlife Trade investigation greatly varied from region to region.
“What is clear is that online market places should protect endangered wildlife by working with police and customs to catch wildlife cybercriminals, banning the sale of goods made from endangered wildlife and informing their customers about the poaching crisis and the laws against illegal wildlife trade,” the report said.