"Online wildlife crime poses a serious threat to endangered animals including elephants, rhinoceros, reptiles and birds," said Tania McCrea-Steele, IFAW's Global Wildlife Cybercrime Project Lead. "At a time when counts show historic lows of African elephants, and with rhino poaching numbers in the thousands—and climbing—for three years running, it is essential that companies, governments and NGO's come together to fight this growing hazard. This initiative makes it possible to tackle online wildlife crime in a far more holistic fashion."
In May 2015 Tencent, owner of social media platform WeChat and instant messaging service QQ, launched the program "Tencent for the Planet" jointly with The Nature Conservancy and IFAW. This initiative commits to educate users of its platforms about species conservation and stigmatize illegal wildlife trade; the group is also working closely with NGOs to build the monitoring capacity of Tencent with wildlife conservation and species identification knowledge; remove infringing postings on WeChat and QQ, and facilitate enforcement.
"Tencent is committed to creating a safe, environmentally-friendly internet ecosystem," said Band Yang, Director of Information Security Executive Committee, Tencent and event co-host. "We have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal wildlife trade conducted through any of our products or services and are dedicated to using our expertise to create innovative ways of protecting endangered species via the internet. We have also been working with other global technology leaders to set the standards for fighting against illegal wildlife related trade, as well as sharing experience with these like-minded companies."
In January 2009 eBay took the important step of banning the sale of all ivory items on its platforms worldwide and has been working to strengthen enforcement and oversight in the years since.
"eBay has more than a decade of experience fighting illegal wildlife trading," said Wolfgang Weber, Head of Global Regulation at eBay. "We hosted the first round table targeting the illicit trade of ivory together with IFAW and law enforcement authorities in 2006. In our experience, these partnerships are the most powerful and effective means to achieve tangible and sustainable results. This is why we welcome and support this important initiative."
"Given the global reach of the internet, industry-wide exchanges and a policy framework on online illegal wildlife trade are needed to address the issue comprehensively and effectively. This could help to simplify and standardize efforts to monitor the internet," said Xu Ling, TRAFFIC's Senior Manager. "TRAFFIC already has some effective partnerships with the private sector, but more partners around the world are needed to combat illegal wildlife trade online."
"Endangered wildlife cybercrime is a global challenge and it is necessary for government, companies and NGOs at a national level to collaborate and prioritize this issue. We need to take coordinated measures to tackle wildlife cybercrime as part of the global effort to conserve endangered species and facilitate sustainable development," said Dr. MENG Xianlin, Head of China's Management Authority.
Online wildlife trade has become a vast and difficult to monitor industry. IFAW's 2014 report Wanted – Dead or Alive: Exposing Online Wildlife Trade found over 30,000 animals or their parts and products sold across 280 online marketplaces, in just 16 countries in a six week period. Investigators found 9,482 advertisements for endangered animals and wildlife products, estimated to be worth at least US$10-million.
"I was shocked to see that ivory and suspect ivory made up almost one third of the online advertisements found in IFAW's Wanted - Dead or Alive report. Kenya takes great pride in its elephants and is working hard to protect them from the threat of poaching. It's essential that enforcers everywhere crack down on the illegal online ivory trade," said Rodah Ogoma, Kenya's Senior Assistant Director for Public Prosecutions.
This event will enable NGO's and online tech companies to share a standardized wildlife policy framework recently adopted by seven companies, including eBay and Tencent, in collaboration with TRAFFIC, IFAW and the World Wildlife Fund.
The speakers will be urging countries to take immediate action to rein in this sprawling illegal trade by asking them to support the Decision on Combatting Wildlife Cybercrime.
Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Photos are available at www.ifawimages.com.
Notes to editors
The "Taking a Byte Out of Wildlife Cybercrime" side event takes place in Committee Room 4 from 17h30-19h00 on September 26, at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg during the CITES CoP 17.
- Representative from the CITES Management Authority of China (CNMA)
- Ms Rhoda Ogoma, Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions, Kenya
- Ms XU Ling, Senior Manager, TRAFFIC
- Mr YANG Peng, Director of Information Security Executive Committee, Tencent
- Grace Gabriel, IFAW Asia Director
- Wolfgang Weber, Head of Global Regulatory and Legal Counsel, eBay
Document 29 Combatting Wildlife Cybercrime background document and tabled Decision: https://cites.org/sites/default/files/eng/cop/17/WorkingDocs/E-CoP17-29.pdf
IFAW's Wanted: Dead or Alive - Exposing the Online Wildlife Trade report (2014): http://www.ifaw.org/united-states/resource-centre/wanted-dead-or-alive-exposing-online-wildlife-trade
Standardized Policy Framework: http://www.ifaw.org/sites/default/files/Wildlife%20Friendly%20Online%20Trade-Standardized%20Wildlife%20Policy%20Framework%20for%20Online%20Companies.pdf
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SOURCE International Fund for Animal Welfare