Online shopping threatens endangered species

pandaYou probably already know that you can buy just about anything online, but did you know that you can buy endangered animals on the internet? In fact, the internet is a huge problem in the protection of endangered species, as there is an entire marketplace where these animals are being bought and sold all the time, and at an alarmingly growing rate.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAM) did an observation study of live animal trading online and found that in only 6 weeks more than 1400 live exotic animals had been traded. Although most of the animals were birds, they also observed the sale of primates, big cats and even rhinos. Some of these species that were traded are endangered animals and cannot be sold legally.

How endangered animal sellers and buyers find each other online

Many of these sales and operations involving endangered animals are clandestine, and aren’t openly discussed online. Instead, a buyer and seller might meet through an online advertisement for a pet that can be legally traded. Many times, sellers that have exotic wildlife for sale will have a variety of options, some of which are illegal. This kind of illegal selling is hard to track, and even harder to control because while the illegal sale of endangered animals isn’t necessary happening online, the internet is making it easier for buyers and sellers to find each other and enter into these types of transactions without any paper trail.

On the other hand, some of these transactions regarding the illegal sale of endangered species are being talked about openly online, through forums, classified ads and other types of online communication. Some of the sellers and buyers know that what they’re doing is illegal, while others don’t even realize that they cannot legally buy or sell certain animals because they are protected by law. Because many live animals are sold through online auction sites, chat rooms, forums and classified pages, these transactions are very hard to track and control.

Many of the species that are bought and sold online are protected under law and cannot legally be traded, such as gorillas, tigers and sea monkeys. Gorillas, for example, are among the most endangered species in our world today, and commercial trade or sale of them is strictly prohibited (according to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). Despite the law, it is quite easy to purchase a gorilla online for a few thousand dollars. Purchasing a monkey is also quite easy online, and many monkeys are marketed as being pets, dolls or even like children, when that is far from the truth. Many of the advertisements list accessories such as bottles, blankets and other baby-related items as coming with the purchase of the monkey.

The live animals themselves aren’t the only part of this online endangered species business. Some of these animals are caught and killed to make items that sell very well online, including ivory (from the Elephant), tiger skin and other body parts of exotic animals. For example, many products in Chinese medicine use parts of exotic animals in their concoctions, including tigers and sea horses. There are also other items, mainly fashion accessories that use exotic animal parts in their fabrication. Endangered species are being captured and killed on a regular basis to please the needs of the demand of these items and products.

Endangered animals facing earlier extinction

The animals that are facing extinction that are bought and sold online include tigers, rhinos, gorillas, and sea horses. Unfortunately, the profitable trade of these endangered species is probably fueling the illegal capture of these animals, which could easily be contributing to their possible eventual extinction. For example, while there were 2 million chimps in the wild 100 years ago, there are less than 150,000 today.

Unfortunately this illegal business is only growing and expanding, and becoming more sophisticated and organized thanks to the internet, putting these endangered species at even greater risk of extinction in even less time.

We are all responsible

Although the government has the responsibility to deal with this problem through task forces, laws, harsher punishments, as well as better regulation and controls, it is also the responsibility of every human being to not buy or sell wildlife or products made from them, especially if they are endangered or protected by law. If there is no demand, the business will stop. It is that simple. However, as people continue to buy these animals, sellers continue to sell, as it is a very lucrative multi-million dollar business.

Apparently the National Wildlife Crime Intelligence Unit in the United Kingdom (and hopefully in other countries as well) is working closing with internet service providers to raise awareness and enhance intelligence-gathering on this type of crime. Apparently another improvement is that penalties are becoming harsher for people convicted of trading endangered species (up to five years in prison or an unlimited fine is the current penalty in some countries). There has also been an increase of police powers in terms of entry, arrest, search and seizure in cases of the possible illegal trading of endangered animals.

Website owners are also getting involved in the new controls, including eBay. A spokesperson for this website has stated that it is working closely with the International Fund for Animal Wildlife to make sure there is no illegal trade of animals going on within its site, and that if there is they will immediately put an end the listing and even possibly forward it to law enforcement for appropriate action.

The internet has opened up a huge online shopping marketplace, which is great, but at the same time this situation has led to the illegal trade of endangered wildlife. Tigers, gorillas, chimps and other endangered animals can be illegally purchased for as little as a few hundred dollars on the internet. This situation has to stop before it is too late and these animals go extinct, and it is the responsibility of everyone on our planet to make sure we address this problem immediately.