The Internet has revolutionised our lives and opened up huge opportunities for doing business and communicating. However, it also provides increased opportunities for the unscrupulous or the criminal to operate, taking advantage of the unregulated and impersonal nature of transactions.
The trade, both legal and illegal, in live and dead animals (including body parts) is increasing and the Internet is coming to play a central role in the activities of illegal traders. This trade has devastating implications for both wildlife conservation and animal welfare. Whole species risk being wiped out by over-exploitation. Millions of animals caught up in the trade suffer immensely and many die, resulting in yet more being taken from the wild.
For this report, IFAW UK monitored the nature and scale of wildlife trade on the Internet over several months. We found that, each week, thousands of animals and animal parts – from live primates to stuffed polar bears, from giant ivory tusks to tiny dried seahorses – are being offered for sale on the Internet. IFAW found a shocking array of species for sale in which all commercial trade is legally prohibited or strictly regulated. Within an intensive one week survey, we found over 9,000 wild animal products and specimens and live wild animals for sale, predominantly from species protected by law. A further 122 traders were identified, each advertising an unspecified number of items – often in sizeable quantities. Our survey was limited to certain species and products, so the figures cited here represent only the tip of the iceberg of Internet trade in protected species.