The Internet has emerged as one of the greatest threats to rare species, fuelling the illegal wildlife trade and making it easier to buy everything from live lion cubs to wine made from tiger bones, conservationists said.
The Internet’s impact was made clear at the meeting of the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Delegates voted overwhelmingly on Monday to ban the trade of the Kaiser’s spotted newt, which has been devastated by Internet trade.
A proposal from the US and Sweden to regulate the trade in red coral — which is crafted into expensive jewellery and sold extensively on the web — was defeated. Delegates voted the idea down mostly over concerns that increased regulations might damage poor fishing communities.
Said Paul Todd, a campaign manager for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. “The Internet is becoming the dominant factor overall in the global trade in protected species. There will come a time when country to country trade of large shipments between big buyers and big sellers in different countries is a thing of the past.”
The IFAW has carried out several surveys of illegal trade on the Internet and found that thousands of species are sold on auction sites, classified ads and chatrooms, mostly in the US but also Europe, China, Russia and Australia.
Most of the illegal trade is in African ivory but the group has also found exotic birds along with rare products such as tiger-bone wine and pelts from protected species like polar bears and leopards. A separate 2009 survey by Campaign Against Cruelty to Animals targeted the Internet trade in Ecuador, finding offers to sell live capuchin monkeys, lion cubs and ocelots.