Google and eBay join forces to launch major crackdown on wildlife traffickers


Stuart Winter, The Express

Date Published

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Leading websites Google and eBay will tell delegates at the International Wildlife Trade Conference in London how they are fighting the sale of rare creatures and their body parts over the internet in an illicit market worth millions of pounds.

A recent investigation by the International Fund for Animal Welfare discovered online advertisements for ivory, rhino horn, live big cats, orangutans and gorillas as well as the skins from tigers, lions, cheetahs and leopards. Parrots, owls and birds of prey are also being sold in high numbers along with turtles and tortoises.

The fight against cyber extinctions is bringing together government bodies, conservation campaigning organisations and the major internet names in increased efforts to stop the catastrophic illegal trade.

Foreign Office Minister Mark Field today expressed his confidence that the way e-commerce, technology and social media companies are working together will end the global criminal enterprise.

“The potential is huge both in terms of catching the criminals involved as well as preventing more wildlife from being murdered,” he explained as delegates discussed the issue. “By bringing together this important coalition of partners we are taking one step closer to ending the illegal wildlife trade that causes so much harm across the world.” 

The Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online has become the driving force behind efforts to tackle trading animals and their body parts through social media and the dark web, a significant sector in the estimated £18 billion a year nature enterprise.

IFAW’s wildlife crime specialist Tania McCrea-Steele explained the scale of wildlife cybercrime and the threat it poses to vanishing creatures.

She said: “Over just six weeks in four countries, IFAW identified advertisements for 11,772 endangered and threatened specimens worth more than £3m. It is encouraging that so many online marketplaces and social media platforms are working to ensure their sites become free of wildlife traffickers, but there is more to be done and we all need to work together to protect vulnerable species for future generations.

“Many of the species preyed upon by wildlife criminals are in danger of approaching a tipping point where their diminishing numbers can no longer sustain their populations.

“Disrupting wildlife cybercrime is a critical component of ensuring the welfare, safety and survival of endangered and threatened animals. We all have a part to play and if we don’t buy, they don’t die.” 

With the world focussing on the way so many iconic creatures are being pushed to the brink by poaching gangs and shadowy crime syndicates at the IWT conference, a wide range of strategies are now being unleashed across various sectors.

Prince William is a driving force behind a declaration from major banks and financial institutions to “follow the money” of the crime gangs in the same way that Al Capone was eventually brought to justice.

The UK Government is pledging £900,000 towards British soldiers training African rangers in anti-poaching tactics, Prime Minister Theresa May told the conference via video link.

Tackling wildlife cybercrime has also seen conservation groups IFAW, WWF and TRAFFIC bringing the e-commerce and social media companies together with a pledge to collectively reduce wildlife trafficking online by 80 per cent by 2020.

eBay senior director Wolfgang Weber, global head of regulatory and business ethics officer, said: “At eBay we believe it’s important to do what we can to protect endangered wildlife from poaching, which is why we were one of the first companies to ban the sale of ivory from our sites.

“The Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online means we can work alongside other companies to collectively drive wildlife traffickers off our platforms.

“Training and support from our coalition partners, WWF, TRAFFIC and IFAW, as well as the dedication of our detection team means we have blocked or removed over 45,000 prohibited wildlife listings in 2017.

“The UK Government’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference is providing a vital platform where the public and private sectors can join forces in the fight against wildlife crime.”