Spotlight on the poaching crisis

| 12th October 2018
Elephant
Pixabay
The Illegal Wildlife Trade conference this week highlighted the scope and severity of illegal ivory dealing online.

As organised criminal gangs are using ever more sophisticated means for trafficking ivory, we too are using pioneering methods to stop poaching and wildlife trafficking, from community involvement to hi-tech innovation.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is calling for urgent action to stop wildlife trafficking and increase protection for some of our most iconic and threatened species.

World leaders, private companies and others gathered in London this week for the opening of the UK Government-hosted Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) conference.

Elephant populations have been decimated by the ivory trade, with elephants being slaughtered at a rate of around 20,000 each year, just so their tusks can be made into trinkets and carvings which nobody needs. Many other endangered species are at a tipping point because of demand for their parts or due to trafficking for the live pet trade.

International marketplace

With mounting evidence showing that traffickers are switching from physical markets to virtual ones, wildlife cybercrime was a key aspect of the conference.

IFAW’s recent research into wildlife cybercrime highlighted the vast quantity of live animals and their body parts available for sale online.

Tania McCrea-Steele, International Project Manager, Wildlife Crime, with IFAW said: “The internet provides wildlife traffickers access to a vast international marketplace – one without borders that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, where wildlife cybercriminals exploit the anonymity afforded to them online.

"Many online marketplaces and social media platforms are working hard to stop this but we all have a part to play. If we don’t buy, they don’t die.”

Over just six weeks in four countries, IFAW identified advertisements for 11,772 endangered and threatened specimens worth more than £3m.

Hi-tech innovation

IFAW research has uncovered thousands of wildlife products and live animals for sale, from ivory tusks and rhino horn products to live big cats, orangutans and gorillas, available just by tapping a smart phone.

To combat the threat posed by online wildlife traffickers, it is critical that public and private sectors unite to find solutions.

With the UK ivory bill progressing through Parliament, there is increasing pressure for the EU, Japan and other key countries to follow suit and close their domestic ivory markets to protect elephants.

IFAW believes ivory should only be valued on a live elephant. More than 500 ivory items, from carvings to whole tusks, have been handed over by members of the public in recent months in response to IFAW’s latest UK ivory surrender to put ivory beyond use.

McCrea-Steele added: “As organised criminal gangs are using ever more sophisticated means for trafficking ivory, we too are using pioneering methods to stop poaching and wildlife trafficking, from community involvement to hi-tech innovation. We need to create a network to defeat a criminal network.”

This Author 

Marianne Brooker is a contributing editor for The Ecologist. This article is a based on a press release from the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Follow them on Twitter @Action4IFAW.

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