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  National Geographic 26 Aug 05
Protected Species, Animal Products for Sale Online
Maryann Mott for National Geographic News

PlanetArk, 17 Aug 05
Web Shoppers Destroying Endangered Wildlife -Report
Story by Jeremy Lovell

BBC website
, 15 Aug 05

Web trade threat to rare species

The illegal trade in wild animal products over the internet is driving the world's most endangered species to extinction, wildlife campaigners claim.

An International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) probe found 9,000 live animals or products for sale in one week on trading sites like eBay. Ifaw claims many traders are taking advantage of the internet's anonymity. The UK Government says it takes wildlife crime seriously, but Ifaw urged it to act urgently.

During a three month investigation, Ifaw found some of the world's most endangered species for sale online - almost all being traded illegally.

Animal parts

These included a live gorilla for sale in London and a Siberian tiger and four baby chimps on US websites.

Animal body parts included hawksbill turtle shells, shahtoosh shawls from the Tibetan antelope and taxidermy specimens of lions, and peregrine falcons - protected by British law. Ivory items and traditional Asian remedies containing parts of endangered tigers and rhinos were common place.

The report, "Caught in the Web: Wildlife Trade on the Internet", said many animals were being targeted by poachers to meet the demands of wealthy consumers.

Ifaw UK director Phyllis Campbell-McRae said unscrupulous traders and sophisticated criminal gangs took advantage of the anonymity afforded by the internet. "The result is a cyber black market where the future of the world's rarest animals is being traded away.

"This situation must be tackled immediately by governments and website owners."

'Laws exist'

Of the 9,000 animals and animal parts found for sale by the probe in its first week alone, 70% were from species protected by international law. Ifaw wants the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to ensure that bans are enforced.

IFAW is warning the public not to purchase any endangered species Professor William Dutton, director of the Oxford Internet Institute, said: "Laws exist to stop the unlawful use of any communication medium, but governments and agencies need to communicate in order to address activities that span the globe."

Endangered animals are protected under international law by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), but there are not enough resources to enforce it, the report said.

British native wildlife law prohibits the trade all wild birds and mammals found in the UK. But researchers found there was a lack of understanding of the legislation. They wants Defra to provide user-friendly information on its own website.

The report urged the department to set up a hotline for easy reporting of suspicious trade.

Unlimited fines

Defra welcomed the report. Biodiversity minister Jim Knight said: "The National Wildlife Crime Intelligence Unit is working closely with internet service providers to raise awareness of wildlife controls and to enhance intelligence-gathering on wildlife crime.

"Last month, we introduced tough new penalties for people convicted of trading in endangered species, meaning they now face up to five years in prison or an unlimited fine." He said the penalties give police stronger powers of arrest, entry, search and seizure.

The government was also consulting on plans to use powers under EC regulations to cut wildlife crime at home and abroad. Website owners are being urged to let users report their suspicions and work more closely with government and enforcement agencies.

A spokesman for eBay said its animals policy goes beyond the law in prohibiting the sale of native and endangered species and it was working closely with the Ifaw to ensure the site remained free from illegal items.

"If we are made aware of any listing that breaks this policy, we will end the listing and may, where appropriate, forward it to the relevant law enforcement agency for action.

"We strongly encourage users to report illegal items to customer support."

PlanetArk, 17 Aug 05
Web Shoppers Destroying Endangered Wildlife -Report
Story by Jeremy Lovell

LONDON - Internet shoppers in search of the exotic have sparked a booming trade that is threatening the existence of many endangered species, a report on Tuesday said.

From a "sweet natured" giraffe to reptile skin handbags, a snapshot survey of the World Wide Web by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) found hundreds of live primates and thousands of rare animal products being offered for sale.

"Trade on the Internet is easy, cheap and anonymous," said IFAW UK director Phyllis Campbell-McRae. "The result is a cyber black market where the future of the world's rarest animals is being traded away."

"Trade in wildlife is driven by consumer demand, so when the buying stops, the killing will too," she added. "Buying wildlife online is as damaging as killing it yourself."

The report "Caught in the web - wildlife trade on the Internet" found, in just one week, 146 live primates, 5,527 elephant products, 526 turtle and tortoiseshells, 2,630 reptile products and 239 wild cat products for sale.

Apart from the two-year-old giraffe for sale on a US site for $15,000, there was also a seven-year-old gorilla living in London in need of a new home "due to relocation of owner" offered for sale on a British site for 4,500 pounds ($8,141). Baby chimpanzees were offered at between $60,000 and $65,000 in the United States, while in Wales a pair of breeding cotton-head tamarins were going for 1,900 pounds. Seahorse skeletons were among the more exotic items on offer, along with an elephant-foot ashtray, ivory sculptures, Tibetan antelope hair shawls known as shahtoosh, wild cat products, snakeskin jackets and crocodile skin boots.

Experts estimate the illegal worldwide trade in endangered species and products is worth billions of dollars a year, and note the boom in Internet auction sites has simply added another avenue.

Britain's National Criminal Intelligence Service has said that the meagre penalties and generally low priority attached to wildlife crime are scant deterrents to organised crime. "The trade, both legal and illegal, in live and dead animals -- including body parts -- is increasing and the Internet is coming to play a central role in the activities of illegal traders," the IFAW report said.

It called on national governments to educate consumers about the laws on trade in endangered species and bring in tougher laws and better policing of the Internet. "Laws exist to stop the unlawful use of any communications medium, but governments and agencies need to communicate in order to address activities that span the globe," William Dutton, director of the Oxford Internet Institute, said.

National Geographic 26 Aug 05
Protected Species, Animal Products for Sale Online
Maryann Mott for National Geographic News

Purebred pets often come with a hefty price tag, but the value skyrockets when the animal for sale is an endangered species. Now, the Internet has opened up a bustling venue for illegal trade in live gorillas, baboons, and other protected species, according to a new report.

The report, released last week by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), revealed that thousands of wild animals and animal parts—from live chimpanzees to whole elephant tusks—are illegally offered for sale online every day. The result is a cyber black market where the future of the world's rarest animals is being traded away, said Phyllis Campbell-McRae, director of IFAW in the United Kingdom.

Poachers specifically target many wild animals to meet the demands of wealthy consumers in foreign countries or to be sold as pets, she says.

"Each one of us has a responsibility to stop buying and selling wild animals and wildlife products," Campbell-McRae said. "Trade in wildlife is driven by consumer demand. So when the buying stops, the killing will too."

During a one-week period in January the IFWA discovered unlawful offerings such as a gorilla on sale for $8,100 (U.S.) and chimps dressed as dolls for $60,000 (U.S.) each.

The conservation nonprofit says the findings represent only a small fraction of the total online trade, because the investigation only looked at sales of live primates and products made from elephants, tortoise shells, reptiles, and wild cats.

Several Web sites and one print publication, all of which run classified advertisments listing live wild animals for sale, either declined or did not respond to an interview request.

Legal Wrangling

Not all buyers and sellers knowingly break the law. IFAW's investigation found that information posted on sellers' Web sites regarding wildlife trade restrictions is either nonexistent or inadequate.

Until such information is made more accessible to online shoppers, IFAW believes people will unwittingly continue to trade illegally or may find it easier to ignore the rules.

In the United States the Endangered Species Act prohibits the interstate and international sale of a listed species, whether alive or dead and in part or product form. The laws regulating products from internationally protected animals are more complex. For example, agents for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have 18 pages of policy they refer to on ivory products alone.

Experts from conservation groups and law enforcement agencies agree that the administrators of some Web sites don't seem to be as careful as they could be when policing their listings for illegal activity.

The popular auction site eBay, however, informs users about product regulations and removes listings of illegal items within 24 hours of notification. EBay spokesman Hani Durzy said the company is continually looking at ways to adjust policies so its 157 million registered users worldwide comply with the law. "If we can initiate polices that continue to allow people to engage in the free trade of items but, at the same time, make it easier for them to ensure they are not doing anything illegal, then we'll do that," he said.

Of the five million new auctions posted on eBay daily, only a small fraction involve wildlife products, such as stuffed birds and the pelts and skins of some animals, Durzy said. And the site prohibits the sale of live animals.

IFAW spokesman Chris Cutter said his organization has been working with eBay. He said the company will soon add the term "wildlife and wildlife products" to its "Report This" drop-down menu, making it easier to report suspicious items and for the site's filters to react accordingly.

Undercover Sting

Even with sites like eBay taking proactive steps to stop the illegal trade of wildlife products, some people still knowingly break the law.

Ed Grace works undercover on wildlife cyber crimes for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Office of Law Enforcement. The veteran agent said he has noticed an increase in the last five years of illegal products and animals being sold online, although the agency does not keep track of how many cases it works on each year.

Because of the agency's small staff size, the team gives priority focus to people using the Internet to conduct repeated large scale transactions. "If we can go after the people that are causing the demand, we think we can slow the problem down," Grace said.

During an undercover operation in 2002, Grace was able to buy several rugs made of pelts from endangered species from a man in New York who posted to a taxidermy-enthusiasts Web site. One of the rugs, made from five rare snow leopards, was purchased for $25,000 (U.S.). The seller has since pled guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced later this year.

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