The internet has become the world’s biggest marketplace, one that is open for business 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is without boundaries, largely unregulated, free and mostly anonymous, and provides easy opportunities for criminal activity.
Investigating online wildlife trafficking and trade
IFAW has been investigating wildlife trade and trafficking over the internet since 2004 with past investigations including:
- Caught in the Web (2005)
- Bidding for Extinction (2007)
- Killing with Keystrokes: An Investigation of the Illegal Wildlife Trade on the World Wide Web (2008)
- Killing with Keystrokes - Portugal and Netherlands (2010)
- Killing with Keystrokes 2.0 (2011)
- Making a Killing (2012)
- Click to Delete - Australia (2014)
- Click to Delete - New Zealand (2014)
- Bidding Against Survival: The Elephant Poaching
- Crisis and the Role of Auctions in the U.S. Ivory
- Market (2014)
These investigations have repeatedly shown that thousands of wildlife and wildlife parts and products are available for sale over the internet across the globe while the nature of the trade, with no access to the item and with little or limited information about the product, means that it can be difficult to ascertain the legality of the sale.
Research to results: making an impact
IFAW has shared information gathered through the course of its investigations with law enforcers and website companies and this has been instrumental in achieving both the worldwide eBay ban on ivory sales and the Taobao ban in China on the trade in a wide range of wildlife products. IFAW supported Project WEB, the first ever international enforcement investigation led by INTERPOL. Additionally, intelligence gathered by IFAW investigators has led directly to enforcement action in many countries. IFAW has brought wildlife trade over the internet to the attention of policy makers at an international level through CITES, ensuring that countries across the world have committed to cracking down on online wildlife crime.
This report documents IFAW’s most recent investigation, the largest international investigation carried out by IFAW since its 2008 report Killing with Keystrokes. That earlier survey identified 7,122 advertisements offering trade in endangered wildlife over a six week period.
The 2014 wildlife trade landscape
This 2014 report looks at the trade in endangered wildlife taking place on 280 online marketplaces in 16 countries during a six week period in early 2014. IFAW investigators found a total of 33,006 endangered wildlife and wildlife parts and products from species listed on CITES Appendix I and II available for sale in 9,482 advertisements, estimated to be worth at least US $10,708,137. Of these, 54 per cent of the advertisements were for live animals while 46 per cent were for animal parts and products.
Ivory, reptiles and birds were the most widely traded items, with ivory and suspected ivory featuring in almost one-third of all advertisements and reptiles accounting for one-quarter of the items found for sale.
IFAW investigators submitted 1,192 intelligence files to law enforcers, which equates to almost 13 per cent of the advertisements, as it believes that this information could inform or be used as the grounds for future police or customs criminal investigations.