Is the Internet a Threat for Endangered Animals? Yes and No.

baby lion for sale photo

Don't worry, this one is not actually for sale. Photo: Flickr, CC

Some conservationists at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) in Doha, Qatar, said that the Internet created some new threats for protected animals. "The internet is becoming the dominant factor overall in the global trade in protected species," said Paul Todd of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. This is because it is now much easier to buy and sell anything and everything, and that includes polar bear pelts, live baby lions, poached ivory, etc.From the BBC:

He said thousands of endangered species are regularly traded on the internet, as buyers and sellers take advantage of the anonymity - and vast global market - the world wide web can offer.

Those trying to police illegal sales say the size of problem is almost impossible to estimate. They say the US is the biggest market, but that Europe, China, Russia and Australia also play a large part.

This is a serious problem, and we need to work on a solution.

But as a commenter on another site said, it might be true that the Internet is "becoming the dominant factor overall in the global trade in protected species", but that's only because "The internet is becoming the dominant factor in everything."

The net is a tremendously powerful tool, and it is helping people around the world better protect the environment. For example, Google Earth has been used to fight illegal logging and better understand our oceans. Information on all kinds of environmental issues is more available than ever, and people can better organize to make change happen. Scientists all over the world can share data rapidly and directly, and projects like E.O. Wilson's Encyclopedia of Life could one day be invaluable tools for biodiversity protection. Most of this would be impossible, or much harder, without the Internet.

What Can Be Done to Reduce Online Illegal Trading?
That's a tough one. Maybe if even a small faction of the money spent on the war on drugs was diverted to fighting these environmental crimes, we could make some progress. It's hard to completely eliminate the trade in endangered species, but by making it harder and more expensive, we could make it a lot less attractive to would-be poachers. We could also put more efforts in educating people about the issues (this includes fighting superstitions about "traditional medicine" and various other expensive placebos that use protected animals), and increasing the consequences for buyers.

More on Endangered Animals
Chinese Zoo Accused of Letting 11 Rare Siberian Tigers Starve to Death
Marine Protected Areas are Crucial to Save the African Penguin (And More)
Fewer than 50 Wild Tigers Left in China, Says Wildlife Conservation Society

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