Trade is virtual but the wildlife isn’t
Chinese conservationists met major internet auction site companies in January, urging action on illegal virtual trade in thousands of products made from threatened wildlife.
4300 advertisements for wildlife products, including elephants, tigers, rhinoceroses and marine turtles, have been found for sale on Chinese-language internet sites.
The meetings with authorities in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan follows an eight months survey of popular Chinese language auction sites by the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.
The survey included Yahoo, eBay and several independent websites.
“Internet service providers and websites need to take greater responsibility for keeping wildlife trade legal”, said Joyce Wu, Programme Officer for TRAFFIC East Asia.
“Government authorities must also ensure that wildlife trade on the internet conforms to the same regulations as wildlife in physical markets.”
During the course of the survey, TRAFFIC informed authorities in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan about suspected illegal trade.
As a result, several advertisements were removed, deliveries intercepted and those involved convicted.
Once the report World Without Borders was published, TRAFFIC met the China Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Management Authority and the China Internet Information Security Monitoring Bureau to address different standards in physical and virtual trade.
The latest meetings were held with major website companies, eBay, Taobao, Tencent, and other relevant organizations such as the State Forestry Administration and the Customs Bureau to find solutions to control illegal wildlife trade on the internet.
TRAFFIC”s aim is to promote efforts to keep online trade legal and sustainable, because the extent of wildlife being offered for sale in apparent contravention of international and national laws is alarming.
The reports recommends the development of strategies to police virtual markets, to bring web-based markets under the same regulatory structure as physical markets and alert shoppers to the growing use of internet for illegal trade.
(TRAFFIC is a joint programme of WWF and the World Conservation Union (IUCN)
Joyce Wu, firstname.lastname@example.org