China Stepping Up to Halt Internet WIldlife Trade

pile of ivory tusks photo

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While the Internet does a lot for improving the environment – from providing ways to reduce energy, reduce consumption of physical goods, telecommuting capabilities and so on – it also creates the ability to do incredible harm to ecosystems.

With the ability to offer ways to quickly, conveniently and anonymously trade exotic animals and plants, the Internet is actually a source of harm. Thankfully, though, China recognizes the harm of wildlife trading, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Taobao, China’s largest internet auction site, are planning a crack down on illegal wildlife trading over the Internet. Here are some frightening statistics:

According to a recently published report by IFAW, Killing with Keystrokes: An Investigation of the Illegal Wildlife Trade on the World Wide Web, Internet trade in wildlife poses a significant and immediate threat to the survival of many endangered species.

The report, which followed a six-week investigation that tracked more than 7,000 wildlife product listings on 183 Web sites in 11 countries, found that elephant ivory dominated the trade, comprising 73% of all product listings tracked.

Exotic birds were second, accounting for nearly 20% of the listings tracked. Primates, big cats and other animals are also falling victim to the e-trade in live animals and wildlife products, according to the report.

That is why the plan to hinder Internet trading is such great news. But is it enough?

IFAW and Taobao are launching a month-long campaign to raise awareness about the frighteningly easy ability to push endangered spieces closer to extinction. The awareness campaign consists of online activities to encourage consumer participation, and an e-store where netizens can report illegal wildlife trade activities in exchange for IFAW gifts.

These are great starts. But, really, is swapping tips for consumer goods and online activities enough of a campaign? Do these things have the legs it will take to make real differences?

We applaud these moves, most definitely. But we would also love to see more effective efforts such as creating policies that make trading far more difficult, far less lucrative, and far less attractive via improving the economies in the areas that turn to illegal and harmful wildlife trading.

Hopefully these things are in the works along with the abovementioned actions by the groups. It sounds like what efforts they are putting forward are indeed having positive effects.

"IFAW has conducted numerous investigations of online trade in wildlife since 2005 in China and has received enormous support from government agencies and the Internet companies," said Grace Ge Gabriel, IFAW's Asia Regional Director. "It is extremely satisfying to see that the results of our investigation were used to enhance law enforcement, and 95% of the illegal wildlife items we found in online trade were eliminated by the Web site companies."

We’ll have to just wait and see if the consumer awareness campaign makes a significant difference. It certainly can't hurt.

Via Press Release
More on Internet Wildlife Trading:
China's Tiger Trade Ban: It's Grrreat! But Will It Last?
India Sets Up Wildlife Crime Control Bureau
Killing Rare Animals Funds Terror
NGO Calls for Stronger Regulations on Mexican Parrot Trade
CSI Wildlife Part Two: 2 Eco-Crimes Unmasked by DNA Forensics

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