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The world’s most endangered species are under threat from a poaching crisis and mounting evidence shows that traffickers are switching from physical markets to virtual ones, as more and more use the internet to market poached and live protected species to the public.
To combat the threat posed by online wildlife traffickers, it is critical that public and private sectors unite to improve coordination and communication between governments, inter-governmental organisations, enforcement agencies, private companies, non-governmental organisations and academics, and create a network to defeat a criminal network.
The Global Wildlife Cybercrime Action Plan brings together critical actors in the fight against online wildlife traffickers, with the numbers of parties lining up to prevent online wildlife trafficking continuing to mount. Delegates from governments, the private sector, NGOs, IGOs and academia, are being urged to show their support for tackling wildlife cybercrime by making a pledge in the pledge room at the conference or via the hashtag #EndWildlifeCrime. Delegates who are interested in joining the cross-sector approach are encouraged to flag their desire to be involved in the Action Plan.
Also at the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) Conference in London today, eBay, Google and Rakuten are taking the stage to highlight the work being undertaken by the Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online. Foreign Office Minister, Rt Hon Mark Field MP will open the panel discussion entitled ‘Access denied: disrupting wildlife trafficking online’; this is the first time ever the private sector has taken part in a UK Government-led global conference on illegal wildlife trade.
Tania McCrea-Steele, International Project Manager, Wildlife Crime, with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said: “Our recent research into wildlife cybercrime highlighted the vast quantity of live animals and their body parts available for sale online and the threat this poses to the future survival of many species. Over just six weeks in four countries, IFAW identified advertisements for 11,772 endangered and threatened specimens worth more than £3m. It is encouraging that so many online marketplaces and social media platforms are working to ensure their sites become free of wildlife traffickers, but there is more to be done and we all need to work together to protect vulnerable species for future generations.”
IFAW research has found thousands of endangered wildlife products as well as live animals offered for sale over the internet, including everything from ivory tusks and trinkets to rhino horn products, fur and skins from big cats, even live big cats, orangutans and gorillas. IFAW has also uncovered a significant trade in protected live parrots and birds of prey and numerous reptiles such as crocodiles, alligators and snakes, all available to purchase just by tapping a smart phone.
McCrea-Steele added: “Many of the species preyed upon by wildlife criminals are in danger of approaching a tipping point where their diminishing numbers can no longer sustain their populations. Disrupting wildlife cybercrime is a critical component of ensuring the welfare, safety and survival of endangered and threatened animals. We all have a part to play and if we don’t buy, they don’t die.”
Foreign Office Minister, Rt Hon Mark Field MP, said: “We are confident that e-commerce, technology and social media companies all working together is essential to ending this global criminal enterprise. The potential is huge both in terms of catching the criminals involved as well as preventing more wildlife from being murdered. By bringing together this important coalition of partners we are taking one step closer to ending the illegal wildlife trade that causes so much harm across the world.”
“At eBay we believe it’s important to do what we can to protect endangered wildlife from poaching, which is why we were one of the first companies to ban the sale of ivory from our sites. The Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online means we can work alongside other companies to collectively drive wildlife traffickers off our platforms. Training and support from our Coalition partners WWF, TRAFFIC and IFAW as well as the dedication of our detection team means we have blocked or removed over 45,000 prohibited wildlife listings in 2017. The UK Government’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference is providing a vital platform where the public and private sectors can join forces in the fight against wildlife crime,” said Wolfgang Weber – Senior Director, Global Head of Regulatory, Legal Counsel & Business Ethics Officer at eBay.
Coming out of the Cyber-enabled Wildlife Crime Workshop, co-hosted by INTERPOL and IFAW in June of this year, there was a commitment to improve coordination across the public and private sectors. Launched by IFAW, along with INTERPOL, the Oxford Martin Programme on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) at the University of Kent, TRAFFIC and WWF, the Action Plan maps out collective goals, outlines the steps that must be taken to achieve these, and provides a reporting mechanism for adaptive management of the plan.
The launch of the Action Plan ties in with one of the key purposes of the IWT Conference, to build on previous efforts, harness technology and strengthen international cross-border partnerships. It aims to share best practices and solutions to make market closure as effective as possible, including tackling displacement to other platforms and raising awareness among consumers.
The Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online, convened by WWF, TRAFFIC and IFAW, brings together e-commerce, technology and social media companies from across the world to reduce wildlife trafficking online. Launched in March 2018, the Coalition aims to collectively reduce wildlife trafficking online by 80% by 2020.
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