We’re working to cut both supply and demand in the world’s biggest marketplace: online.
To stop wildlife crime, we need to be in marketplaces as much as we need to be in national parks. Today, that means going to the biggest marketplace in the world: the internet.
Open on any day, at any hour, in any place, the internet has made it exponentially easier for buyers and sellers to find each other. In one report, we found ads featuring more than 30,000 animals—everything from ivory and suspected ivory items, live monkeys to large numbers of reptiles and birds—in just six weeks across 16 countries.
For buyers, this might sound like a dream. But for animals, it’s a nightmare. They can be kept in terrible conditions, leaving them cramped, malnourished, and sick. In transit, the conditions get even worse. Huge numbers of animals are also killed every year to supply the demand for their products.
We’re working with a wide range of partners to end wildlife cybercrime. With law enforcement agencies, we’re developing tools and resources to help them detect and disrupt digital criminal activities. With businesses, we’re developing policies that will eliminate wildlife crime on their digital platforms.
And we’re addressing the source of the problem: potential buyers. We’re raising public awareness about the dangers of buying animals and animal parts online. We’re publishing research on the prevalence of this problem, and we’re releasing helpful tips and tools to show consumers how they can avoid it.
Lastly, we work with international conventions to ensure there is the political will to tackle this problem and support governments that are strengthening their laws to prevent wildlife trafficking online.
From 2018, we have been working with over 30 different technology companies as part of The Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online.
The Coalition was convened with IFAW, WWF and TRAFFIC. Coalition members are aiming to collectively reduce wildlife trafficking on their platforms by 80 percent by 2020.
The Cyber-Spotter Programme is the Coalition’s critical force of citizen scientists that help reduce online wildlife trafficking. IFAW volunteers are trained as ‘additional eyes on the web’ and are provided with information on species identification, conservation legislation and methodology for identifying relevant wildlife specimens, including any potential code words that sellers use to avoid detection for their products. Any violations of companies’ wildlife policies or legislation that are found during volunteer surveys are recorded and shared by IFAW with the online platforms to collaborate on removing content and enhancing policies that tackle wildlife cybercrime.
IFAW has identified four priority categories of species for its Cyber-Spotter program: ivory and suspected ivory, exotic birds and birds of prey, turtles and tortoises, and lizards and snakes; species chosen because the illegal trade in them poses a risk to the sustainability of the species in the wildlife or may lead to the welfare of the animal being significantly compromised. However, choosing species to prioritize for individual surveys remains flexible, depending on the needs of individual platforms and specific circumstances.
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