Cybercrime Savvy to Help South African Law Enforcers Crackdown on Illegal Online Wildlife Trade

Cybercrime Savvy to Help South African Law Enforcers Crackdown on Illegal Online
Monday, 9 May, 2016

Law enforcers from nine provinces of South Africa will go into training in Johannesburg this week to learn the skills needed to combat illegal online trade in wildlife.

The first ever South Africa Wildlife Cybercrime Enforcement training is being held jointly by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), and draws together representatives from a gamut of law enforcement agencies countrywide.

“Online wildlife trade poses a serious threat to endangered wildlife including elephants, reptiles and birds,” said Tania McCrea-Steele, Global Wildlife Cybercrime Lead for IFAW. “IFAW’s investigations into wildlife trade worldwide show that every day tens of thousands of endangered wildlife products are available for sale over the internet.

“In many cases live animals are being traded, while a substantial number of advertisements for sale on online marketplaces are for parts and products with little or limited information as to whether they are being traded legally or illegally. Then you have social media networking sites as well that offer yet more outlets to the crooks.

“The Internet offers access to a pool of potential wildlife buyers that is far larger than traditional marketplaces and thus provides a greater incentive for criminals to capture and kill animals. And all of this takes place at a time when wildlife poaching levels are alarmingly high,” said McCrea-Steele.

Adam Pires, Manager of the EWT’s Skills Development Programme, said law officials would be trained in skills as diverse as online investigation techniques including social media sites, prioritising and identifying scams, and specifics of species most commonly found for online trade in South Africa, and enforcement techniques.

“There has been huge interest from various enforcement agencies during the developmental stages of this training programme. We are also pleased that this training programme will be packaged in such a way that the various enforcement agencies will be able to implement it in-house post the project, we need to allow the enforcement agencies to become custodians of these training programmes into the future,” said Pires.

McCrea-Steele, said Project Trawler, an IFAW investigation into wildlife trade on social media late last year found nearly 66 billion posts made on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram over a six-week period.

“Project Trawler, which looked specifically at social media sites, found 910 listings featuring over 3,000 animals listed as Appendix I or Appendix II species, by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which confirms their status and being among the most endangered species on the planet,” said McCrea-Steele.

“An earlier investigation into conventional online market places called Wanted –Dead or Alive, Exposing Online Wildlife Trade, identified over 33,000 endangered animals and wildlife for sale in 16 countries in a six-week period.

“There’s no doubt that wildlife criminals are becoming ever more devious in the way they go about their activities, and using the various facets of the Internet offers criminals a level of anonymity which makes tackling cybercrime a real challenge for law enforcers.

“We believe training local law enforcers to effectively investigate cybercrime will go a long way to tackling wildlife crime in South Africa and across its borders,” she said.


About the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT)

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is a non-governmental, not-for-profit conservation organisation, founded in 1973. The EWT fills the key niche of conservation action through applied research, field-work and direct engagement with stakeholders. With specialist Programmes and a large team of skilled field staff deployed throughout southern Africa, the EWT’s work supports the conservation of threatened species and ecosystems. Priority interventions focus on identifying the key factors threatening biodiversity and developing mitigating measures to reduce risk and reverse the drivers of species extinction and ecosystem degradation.

About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)

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 Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy