January 18, 2010

Illegal Wildlife Trade Found On The Internet

Illegal wildlife traders are using the Internet to pull in more customers, avoid laws and evade authorities, according to animal rights activists at the Asia for Animals 2010 conference on Sunday.

Everything from rhinoceros horns to live tiger cubs are being marketed on public websites and in online advertisements, said Grace Ge, Asian regional director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

The Internet provides illegal traders an anonymous way to market their goods and offers quick and untraceable sales. While inadequate governing of online companies continues, these black market traders can and will continue to flourish, according to AFP.

"The Internet has facilitated the trading of wildlife, which is having a devastating effect on animals and ecosystems worldwide," Ge said.

Referring to a study on the illegal online wildlife trade in 2008, Ge said there continued to be a "huge volume of wildlife and their products traded online on a daily basis." The research was conducted over a three-month period in 11 countries including the U.S., China and Australia. The study found more than 7,000 online ads selling illegal wildlife products.

70.5 percent of the ad base came from the United States, while Britain and China were only at about 8 percent each, according to the study. Estimated values of the final sales on these websites accounted for more than 457,000 dollars, but the actual figure was likely much higher as most sites did not advertise prices.

Animal rights activists said at the conference that, in the case of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners, cooperation rather than conflict was more effective in protecting wildlife from poachers. Louis Ng, executive director of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), said that the previous approach of confrontation was no where nearly as effective.

Ng cited a joint proposal by ACRES and Singapore TCM practitioners to adopt a labeling scheme to discourage local TCM shops from selling products made from endangered animals. To date, more than 20 percent of all TCM shops were following the initiative, Ng said.

TCM shops sell medicinal products made from animals such as bears and tigers.


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