Nepal | July 04, 2020

Illegal wildlife trade thriving on social media

Agence France Presse
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AFP

Social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram are increasingly being used in Asia as platforms for the illegal trade in a range of threatened species such as orangutan and sun bears, conservation groups said March 3.

The trend poses a new and worrying threat to wildlife in a tech-savvy region where products derived from a range of species are sought for traditional medicines and where exotic animals are prized as pets, said wildlife-trade monitor Traffic and conservation group WWF.

“Traders are moving to non-conventional methods of sale like utilising online portals and social media to evade detection, reach a broader audience and increase transaction efficiency,” Traffic said in a report released on March 3. Growing numbers of traders are using closed groups on Facebook and password-protected online forums to reach Asian customers, it said.

Traffic said, in a month in China in 2015, thousands of ivory products, 77 whole rhino horns, and large numbers of endangered birds were found advertised for sale on sites such as QQ and WeChat.

“The wildlife trade network is getting smarter and more sophisticated,” WWF-Malaysia director Dionysius Sharma told AFP. Traffic’s report focused heavily on Malaysia, where Facebook use is high.

Over a 50-hour period in 2015, it monitored 14 Facebook wildlife-trading groups catering to customers in Malaysia, counting more than 67,500 active members of the groups. Scores of traders put up more than 200 individual posts offering to sell live wild animals ranging from rare birds to orangutans and sun bears, it said.

Often, ads with photos were uploaded to sites such as Facebook or Instagram, while bargaining for the animals took place over other platforms like WhatsApp in Malaysia and Blackberry Messenger in Indonesia.

“Trading appears to be very relaxed and traders will happily provide their contact details and will sometimes offer to deliver the animal to the buyer’s home address,” said the report. Facebook groups can quickly change their names or shut down and pop up in another guise, highlighting the challenges facing law enforcement.


A version of this article appears in print on March 04, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.


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