CITES toughens up on illegal wildlife trade online

Sunday, March 21, 2010
Doha, Qatar
Stricter measures to control the illegal trade in wildlife over the Internet were endorsed today at the 15th Conference of the Parties (CoP 15) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting in Doha.

“Trade over the Internet poses one of the greatest threats to wildlife and undermines the CITES treaty itself,” said IFAW’s Paul Todd. “It is a vast global network that provides the cover of relative anonymity for wildlife traffickers, making it a huge enforcement challenge for Parties.”

“Thousands of CITES listed species are traded each and very week around the world. More and more, individual citizens are taking part in the global wildlife trade online and away from the watchful eyes of CITES parties and their enforcement regimes, which raises new questions involving jurisdiction, technological capacity, legal responsibility, and burden of proof.”

The CITES Parties endorsed a series of recommendations that will aid Parties in tightening enforcement against Internet trade in protected species and understanding the methods and pathways by which CITES specimens could be illegally traded online.

“The recommendations accepted today ask Parties to evaluate their domestic enforcement measures to see if they are sufficient to deal with the growing threat of online wildlife trafficking,” said Todd. “While we believe this language could have been much stronger, we are glad the Parties are beginning to tackle this issue, and hope their engagement will grow as we learn more and more about this problem.”

The International Fund for Animal Welfare has been a pioneer on the issue of the illegal Internet trade in wildlife for more than five years.  

“IFAW’s investigations around the world have discovered everything from elephant ivory to turtle shells, exotic birds to tiger bone wine – all available via the comfort of your home computer,” said Todd.

“We have made real progress in understanding and controlling the online wildlife trade, working with countries like China, and online marketplaces such as eBay and Taobao.com. But, the support of the international community will really help to crack down on e-commerce in illegal wildlife.”

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