Silicon Valley tech firms pledge to fight illegal wildlife trading (US)


Ethan Baron, Silicon Beat

Date Published

San Jose e-commerce giant eBay has some cleaning up to do, after signing a pact to help stop illegal trade in wild animals and their parts. Sunnyvale’s Yahoo, Pinterest of San Francisco and four other tech and e-commerce firms also have agreed to help end the online trafficking.

The World Wildlife Fund and two other conservation groups on Aug. 12 announced that the seven companies had committed to a pact aimed at preventing online sales of endangered wildlife and products made from those animals. Creatures on the list include tigers, elephants, gorillas and chimps, certain corals and sea turtles.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare, which is running the project with the WWF and the group TRAFFIC, said it had conducted a six-week survey of 280 online marketplaces in 16 countries and found more than 30,000 advertisements for threatened and endangered wildlife and their parts. About a third of the ads were for ivory or suspected ivory. Total price for the goods on sale was more than $10 million, IFAW said.

“This is why we need the help of large international companies,” said the IFAW’s Tania McCrea-Steele in a blog post. “The online marketplace is so large that everyone needs to do his or her bit to close down the avenues for wildlife cybercriminals.”

Other firms signing onto the agreement were Microsoft, crafts site Etsy, British online ads firm Gumtree and Chinese tech giant Tencent.

A brief check into ads on eBay, Etsy and Pinterest suggests that eBay will need to weed out some postings.

On eBay on Aug. 12, someone from Armenia was selling a “very rare” sea turtle shell hairpin for $20. A seller in Oregon wanted $25 for a sea turtle shell necklace. Several vendors were offering corals prohibited under the agreement.

A spokesman for eBay, Ryan Moore, noted that the site has more than a billion listings. The company uses filters to remove listings that violate its policies and takes additional measures to bar such listings, Moore said. The company’s policy staff would look into the items currently for sale that don’t appear to fit the new agreement, Moore said.

On Etsy, the only suspicious item that popped up during a cursory search was for a figurine advertised as made of elephant ivory.