Portugal bans online trade in wild animals

Imperial Parrot, an endangered and endemic parrot on the island of Dominica. Portugal often acts as an entry point for wildlife trade from the Caribbean.The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) congratulates the Portuguese government for introducing a ban on wild animal trade over the internet. Policing wildlife trafficking online is a daunting task, as the internet provides access to a global market, with thousands of advertisements for wild animals posted on a regular basis across the world. Online sales provide traders with a level of anonymity, and it means that there is a digital barrier between enforcers and the animals they seek to protect from trafficking. 

The change to Portuguese legislation, announced on 23 August, recognises these challenges and takes bold measures to close down the threat posed by wildlife cybercrime.  In addition, this law prohibits the storefront display of companion animals – dogs and cats – to be sold to the public.

Portugal is not alone in identifying the need to strengthen legislation in order to clamp down on wildlife cybercrime. Last year at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Conference of the Parties, 183 signatories adopted a decision that seeks to capture changes to domestic legislation, as well as establish best practise models, develop enforcement guidelines and engage with online technology companies.

Meanwhile, the governments of the Czech Republic, China and France have added clauses to their wildlife legislation that address the threats posed by wildlife cybercrime, placing the legal burden of proof on the trader or ensuring enforcers have the powers they need to carry out effective investigations.

It is essential that governments across the globe capitalize on this growing momentum to ensure policies keep pace with online marketplaces, ensuring the internet is no longer used as a means to profit from wildlife trafficking. Portugal’s ban of its online wild animal trade is a prime example of how governments can empower their police and customs officers to stamp out wildlife crime online by eliminating the threat posed by an enormous marketplace to the worlds threatened species.

--TMS

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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
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Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
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