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Caught in the Web: Wildlife Trade on the Internet

October 5, 2010

Killing with Keystrokes, Wildlife Trade on the Internet: Superhighway to Extinction


The Internet has become the world’s largest marketplace, open for business 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Unregulated, anonymous and virtually unlimited in reach, the Internet provides endless opportunities for illegal criminal activities and transactions. Increasingly, the Internet is being used to conduct illegal trade in wildlife. This illegal trade in live and dead animals and their parts is estimated to rival the scale of illegal trafficking in drugs and weapons.

Investigations into the illegal wildlife trade on the Internet conducted by the International Fund for Animal Welfare since 2004 have revealed staggeringly high numbers of wildlife products traded daily.

In March 2004, IFAW published Elephants on the High Street: an investigation into ivory trade in the UK, which documented vast quantities of ivory sold illegally over the Internet, in the UK and internationally, with little or no monitoring or law enforcement. The report concluded that there is widespread ignorance of laws restricting the ivory trade and that traders aware of the legal restrictions can easily find ways to get around them with little chance of detection.

IFAW’s 2005 report, Caught in the Web: Wildlife Trade on the Internet (see also below), found an astonishing 9,000 wild animals and animal products for sale in just one week. This figure was all the more alarming since the survey was conducted solely on English language Internet sites and restricted to trade in just five categories of CITES-protected species; live primates, elephant products, turtle and tortoiseshell products, other reptile products and products from wild cats.

IFAW’s Dutch Animal Trade Survey 2006: Caught in the Web reported on a month-long study of legal and illegal trade in wild animals on private and commercial Dutch-language web sites. In that one month, at least 150 Dutch-language web sites were found to be selling endangered species of mammals, land tortoises and sea turtles, protected birds, reptiles and amphibians.

IFAW’s global 2007 follow-up report, Bidding for Extinction (see also below) ,revealed a rampant trade in elephant ivory across eBay™’s global network of auction sites. Our one-week snapshot survey tracked more than 2,275 ivory items for sale on eight national eBay™ web sites (UK, Australia, China, Germany, Netherlands, France, Canada and USA).

More than 90% of the listings even breached eBay’s own wildlife policies. Many sellers were allowed to list items with no provenance of legality while eBay’s enforcement of their largely vague and variable listing rules appeared haphazard and hopelessly overstrained.

As a result of this study and ongoing consultations with IFAW, eBay in June 2007 announced a global ban on cross-border trade in ivory products for all eBay national sites.

In 2008, IFAW undertook the largest investigation of the Internet wildlife trade the organization had ever attempted. The results were published in a report entitled Killing with Keystrokes: An Investigation of the Illegal Wildlife Trade on the World Wide Web (or see below).

In the course of six weeks, IFAW was astonished to find more than 7,000 wild animals and animal products for sale online. This figure was all the more alarming because the survey was restricted to trade only in CITES Appendix 1 species (considered the most endangered in the world), and only in the following categories: primates, elephant, reptiles, large wild cat products, rhinoceroses and birds.

IFAW tracked more than US$30 million worth of advertised animal products and over US$3.6 million in actual commerce, meaning money that actually changed hands.

This landmark investigation helped us understand the volume and geographic scope of the global Internet wildlife trade, identify key Internet wildlife trade markets, determine the species most affected, and highlight significant issues and trends related to the online trade in wildlife.

On October 19, 2008 — after further consultations with IFAW about the results of our investigation — eBay announced that it was banning all ivory products on all of its platforms worldwide

The Netherlands was not included in the 2008 investigation but we knew it was important to include this country in our findings. Therefore, a follow-up investigation was conducted in the Netherlands in mid-2009. (Click here for the 2008 Netherlands report)

The implications of the growing Internet trade in wildlife reverberate beyond national and regional borders. Yet contemporary international law has fallen behind in its consideration of this deadly Internet activity and current legislation and enforcement schemes have proven insufficient in dealing with the scale of the problem.

We are continuing to campaign for stricter regulation of wildlife trading over the Internet wildlife trade.

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Killing With Keystrokes- An Investigation of the Illegal Wildlife Trade on the WWW

View this document on Scribd

Caught in the Web – Wildlife Trade on the Internet

View this document on Scribd

Bidding for Extinction

View this document on Scribd

all you who trade in death
on the internet
we who oppose are a mighty force
and you “ain’t seen nothing yet”
we will not stand quietly by
as you commoditize
innocent animals and
steal away their lives

Karen Lyons Kalmenson

5 Comments leave one →
  1. karen lyons kalmenson permalink
    October 5, 2010 12:24 pm

    all you who trade in death
    on the internet
    we who oppose are a mighty force
    and you “ain’t seen nothing yet”
    we will not stand quietly by
    as you commoditize
    innocent animals and
    steal away their lives


  2. May 2, 2013 10:27 am

    I wish for you in order to be able for you to help say thanks to for your period of this wonderful study!

    I without a doubt appreciate every little bit of that and that i perhaps you have saved to check out new things of one’s wewebsite a must read blog!



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