Investigation finds EU Internet wildlife trade threatens endangered animals IFAW calls on EU to reign in wildlife e-commerce

Friday, 5 March, 2010
Brussels, Belgium
Today, IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare – released 3 detailed reports illustrating that internet wildlife trade across the EU still poses a significant threat to the survival of endangered species. The EU has a golden opportunity later this month at the 15th CITES Conference of Parties in Qatar to advocate for and decide on adequate international enforcement measures to fight illegal wildlife trade via the Internet. In the interim commerce websites must take responsibility for the products on offer and ban the trade in ivory via their online marketplaces. E-Bay has already successfully banned any trade in ivory and provides an ideal example for these businesses to follow.

“With our most recent investigations into internet wildlife trade, it is clear that the EU has an enormous crisis on its hands. Everyday thousands of endangered wildlife specimens are being traded throughout the EU, threatening the very survival of countless species. The EU must take steps to halt the rising tide of biodiversity loss by enforcing tough wildlife trade policies, and by completely banning elephant ivory products,” said IFAW EU Director Lesley O’Donnell.

The three investigations took place in Portugal, the Netherlands and eastern Europe over varying periods of time. However, the consistent result was that ivory and other illegal wildlife continues to be traded within and across European borders with profound impact on the planet’s biodiversity. The report on eastern Europe was compiled by CEEweb for Biodiversity.

IFAW’s six-week investigation in the Netherlands tracked more than 522 wildlife product listings on 9 websites. Elephant ivory dominated the investigation and comprised 73% of all products tracked in the Netherlands. In eastern Europe, Poland averaged over 3000 illegal specimens for sale at any given time. 

Approximately ten times more specimens than the other five countries observed[i]. The Portuguese investigation found websites were selling endangered wildlife products, including ivory, crocodile bags, live birds and big cats with most of the sales taking place on In one instance, a user purchased a large antique ivory carving for 60.000€.

Internet wildlife trade will be a hot topic at the upcoming 15th Conference of the Parties (CoP15) to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). More than 1,500 government representatives from 175 countries will converge in Doha, Qatar from 13 to 25 March for the conference. A proposal for regulation of e-commerce in wildlife has been put forward, but it remains unclear if the EU will recognise that the impact of illegal wildlife trade via the internet should be actively addressed under CITES

“In this, the International year of Biodiversity, the EU has a tremendous opportunity to make a real difference to the survival of some of the most endangered species in the world,” continued O’Donnell. “The European Parliament has shown its commitment to the protection of these species through the adoption of a Resolution on this topic on 10th February 2010. It is, therefore, now up to the Council to voice its opinion in shaping the EU position.”

Total international trafficking in wildlife, via the internet or otherwise, is estimated to reach well into the billions of Euro annually – a black market rivaling the size of the international trade in illegal drugs and weapons.  Every year thousands of elephants are illegally slaughtered in Africa and Asia to meet a growing demand for ivory products.

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