Ivory smugglers get cyber wise


Graeme Hosken, The Herald

Date Published


Organised crime syndicates have upped their game and gone cyber to ensure they can continue to fuel the world’s global illegal wildlife trade.

In a document released yesterday in Johannesburg at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), it emerged that the bad guys were not the only ones using technology in their favour.

That is because conservationists are using everything from nano-technology, barcoding and microsatelillting of species DNA, to chemical profiling in the fight against wildlife crime.

The report, titled “Combating Wildlife Cybercrime”, tells how a recent Interpol operation had found 660 advertisements of ivory items valued at ß1.45-million (R22.2- million) for sale on 61 internet auction sites in nine European countries.

In November 2014, an investigation found 33 006 endangered animals and wildlife products were found to be for sale in 9 482 adverts.

They were worth at least $10.7-million (R146.7-million) International wildlife trafficking organisation Traffic spokesman Richard Thomas said syndicates were increasingly turning to the web to carry out their crimes.

Meanwhile, experts who met on the sidelines of the conference called for steps to motivate for science rather than brute force to be used in the fight.

“Forensics can help distinguish the difference between legally and illegally traded animals, establish the source of animal seizures and map out of intricate trade routes, ” wildlife forensics network Trace director Dr Rob Ogden said.