It's not us it's them! Why the illegal wildlife trade is closer to home than you may think

On Tuesday I had the pleasure of launching IFAW's Wanted - Dead or Alive Internet trade report to a packed room (kindly hosted by long-term supporter of IFAW's work Zac Goldsmith MP) in Parliament.

The event was attended by a wide range of influential MPs and peers, key enforcement officers from the Association of Chief Police Officers, the National Wildlife Crime Unit, the Metropolitan Police Wildlife Crime Unit, representatives from the Foreign Office, members of HRH The Prince of Wales’ International Sustainability Unit, IFAW friends and supporters and many more.

Speakers at IFAW’s launch event, Martin Sims, Head of the NWCU; Philip Mansbridge, UK Director of IFAW; Zac Goldsmith MP

So what made these busy people turn up to hear about the trade in products like ivory, rare reptiles, exotic birds and even a gorilla?

Surely this is something that doesn't affect us city folk in London, surely this isn't a 'British Problem'?

Well the truth is it does, and it is.

We shouldn't rest on our laurels just yet.

Wanted - Dead or Alive details the true and shocking scale of the online wildlife trade in 16 countries, including the UK.

After many months of global scoping, it showed that in just a six-week period there were 33,006 endangered wildlife and wildlife parts and products offered for sale via 280 online marketplaces...Total value of these?

Hazard a guess...I think you'll be surprised.

It was around £7m!

£7m...and more than 30,000 products or live wild animals in six weeks!

Clearly this is not a trade that takes place in the ether. It’s here, on our doorstep, in our country, on our screens - in plain view.

In the UK we found websites hosted 1,087 online advertisements which included for sale - ivory and suspected ivory, turtles, tortoises, owls, exotic birds, monkeys and parts and products from elephants, rhinos, hippos, crocodiles, alligators and big cats.

We handed more than 400 of those advertisements to the National Wildlife Crime Unit for further investigation as we had concerns about whether the traders were breaking the law.

Our report shows that we need to do more, both as a nation and internationally, to stamp out this crime. We need to work together; NGOs, the Government and enforcement agencies, to close loopholes and strengthen laws.

It was great to hear that prominent influencers are listening already.

Zac Goldsmith MP showed that our years of hard work highlighting the horrific scale of online wildlife trade is really having an impact with parliamentarians when he said “I want to thank IFAW for the work they’ve done, not just now but for a very long period of time in this incredibly important area.”

This was good to hear, as was hearing him commend IFAW for showing leadership and blazing a trail in what he described as “a murky and unpleasant sector of human activity”.

He described the hard-hitting contents of our report as one of the most depressing he’s seen.

Zac echoed our sentiments when he made clear that although the Internet has brought us all so many opportunities, these opportunities are matched like for like in opportunities for people engaged in wrongdoing.

Martin Sims, Head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), went on to describe appalling case studies, one of which involved hunters killing endangered wildlife on demand in South Africa and Java to supply online traders in the UK who were shipping skulls from monkeys and hornbills out to the US and Canada. Another involved ivory being sold over the Internet and shipped between traders in the UK and New Zealand. Both of these cases were dealt with by enforcers.

It was very apparent that although the NWCU is a world leader in fighting wildlife cybercrime it cannot continue this role without the necessary funding.

Also critical is the need to continue to work with key Internet sales platforms like eBay who we've already spoken to and who are keen to act on our report.

Ultimately though, our report shows that although most of us are unlikely to see an elephant, parrot or primate walking past our window anytime soon, you may well see one, or parts of one, in your living room next time you're surfing the web.

The trade is real, it does affect us - no matter where we live.

With your support we can and we will close it down.

We need your help to tackle wildlife cybercrime.


You can help, take action now.

Post a comment


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. Joseph Okori
Regional Director, Southern Africa and Program Director, Landscape Conservation
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jeffrey Flocken, Former Regional Director, North America
Regional Director, North America
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy