Governments, online companies, NGOs join forces in the fight against wildlife cybercrime

Update: On the final day of the Conference, Parties ratified a commitment to stamp out illegal online wildlife trade by forcing measures to bring together governments, enforcers and online tech companies in a common mission to save wildlife. It calls for countries to establish and share best practises on enforcement actions, empower governments to ensure they have the strongest possible legislation in place and participate in a workshop on wildlife cybercrime that includes both producer and consumer countries.

Yesterday saw the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Tencent, eBay, TRAFFIC, the Chinese government and a senior Kenyan prosecutor take centre stage at one of the world’s biggest conservation gatherings to unite in our fight against wildlife cybercrime.

The event hosted at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP) provided all the speakers with an opportunity to showcase what steps need to be taken to close down online markets to wildlife cybercriminals.

What are those steps?

  1. Online tech companies must raise consumer awareness of both the poaching crisis and the laws protecting endangered species while also banning illegal live wildlife and their products from their sites.
  2. Enforcement efforts need to be ramped up, ensuring that police and customs are investigating and prosecuting criminals who seek to profit from the killing and capture of endangered wildlife and the subsequent trading of these animals and their body parts online.
  3. Governments must ensure that their wildlife legislation enables enforcers to police the online environment effectively.  

The good news is that Tencent and eBay have banned the sale of illegal wildlife from their sites and will remove these postings if traders seek to breach their policy, while some enforcement agencies are regularly prosecuting wildlife cybercriminals and a number of countries including China, France and the Czech Republic have already changed their laws to specifically target online wildlife crime.

eBay's Wolfgang Weber shares w/ a packed room including IFAW Asia Director Grace Gabriel and the author at #CoP17 how IFAW helped the online retailer transform its wildlife trade policy over 10 years.

But more must be done. We must increase the momentum and continue to improve on our efforts.

So what was special about yesterday’s event? We saw Mr Band Yang, Director of the Information Security Executive Committee, from Tencent and Wolfgang Weber, Head of Global Regulations and Legal Counsel, from eBay show us how the online tech community is genuinely committed to stamping out wildlife cybercrime on their sites.

And I was moved to see Rodah Ogoma, a senior Kenyan Prosecutor, make a compelling case for the need to stamp out wildlife cybercrime while standing shoulder to shoulder with Mr Meng Xianlin from the Chinese government who outlined the measures they have taken to crack down on wildlife cybercrime, including committing resources to enforcement and changing their law.

Meanwhile Xu Ling from TRAFFIC and I were able to demonstrate how we are collaborating to tackle online wildlife crime by not only exposing the problem, but by supporting online tech companies, enforcers and governments to be part of the solution.

What we need to see now is other governments publicly committing to fighting wildlife cybercrime when this issue is discussed on the floor of the CoP this Wednesday.  

--TMS

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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Beth Allgood, US Country Director
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Dr. Joseph Okori
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Faye Cuevas, Esq.
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Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
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Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
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Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
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