IFAW spearheads crime fighting on the worldwide web
Wildlife law enforcement experts from Asia, Africa and the United States discussed regional and international enforcement cooperation to combat wildlife crime, at a meeting today in Nanning, Guangxi Province. The meeting between China and Association of South East Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) aims to improve communication and enforcement to counter the ever increasing threats to the region’s biodiversity from wildlife trafficking.
IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare—www.ifaw.org) presented at the meeting the findings from a series of global studies on the online trade of wildlife and their products, and urged for increased collaboration to effectively reduce online wildlife crime.
“Many of the wildlife products traded online come from endangered species protected by international conventions as well as domestic laws”, said Grace G. Gabriel, IFAW’s Asia Regional Director from the meeting. “Criminals engaging in this trade take advantage of the fast and anonymous nature of the internet. They reap huge profits selling illegal products such as tiger bone, rhino horn and elephant ivory online, without much risk of being caught.”
Since 2004, IFAW has conducted online market monitoring around the world and facilitated global responses to reduce illegal trade of wildlife online. Responses in the forms of improved domestic legislations, website-wide bans of wildlife listings and offline enforcement actions.
Heeding IFAW’s recommendation, Chinese and global online e-commerce giants Taobao and eBay banned elephant ivory trade in 2005 and 2008 respectively. Following the ban, Taobao.com continued with education initiatives online and by updating code word screens to effectively detect and eliminate ivory listings.
In recent years, many more websites in China have adopted endangered species trade bans into their website policies. Earlier in 2012, the largest Chinese language search engine Baidu shut down 24 wildlife trade forums including those illegally trade in elephant ivory and tiger bone, and removed nearly 35000 wildlife listings.
In April 2012, IFAW tip-off led to a special operation by China’s Forestry Police which closed down 520 online trade forums and 628 online stores. Online investigation combined with offline enforcement, the operation has proved to be the country’s largest crack down on web-based wildlife criminal activities.
“Enforcement actions such as this followed with successful prosecution and conviction of wildlife criminals will send a strong message that illegal wildlife trade activities will not be tolerated”, concludes Gabriel. “Crimes against nature are increasingly recognized as a type of serious, organized and transnational crime which poses threats to a country’s national security. Regional and international enforcement networking and collaboration is essential in arrest the rampant wildlife trafficking which is threatening the survival of many endangered species”.
About the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.