The Internet has become the world's largest marketplace, open for business 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Unregulated, anonymous and virtually unlimited in reach, the Internet provides endless opportunities for illegal criminal activities and transactions. Increasingly, the Internet is being used to conduct illegal trade in wildlife. This illegal trade in live and dead animals and their parts is estimated to rival the scale of illegal trafficking in drugs and weapons.Investigations into the illegal wildlife trade on the Internet conducted by the International Fund for Animal Welfare since 2004 have revealed staggeringly high numbers of wildlife products traded daily.IFAW's 2005 report Caught in the web Wildlife trade on the Internet found an astonishing 9000 wild animals and animal products for sale in just one week. This figure was all the more alarming since the survey was conducted solely on English language Internet sites and restricted to trade in just five categories of CITES-protected species; live primates, elephant products, turtle and tortoiseshell products, other reptile products and products from wild cats.IFAW's Dutch Animal Trade Survey 2006: Caught in the Web reported on a month-long study of legal and illegal trade in wild animals on private and commercial Dutch-language web sites. In that one month, at least 150 Dutch-language web sites were found to be selling endangered species of mammals, land tortoises and sea turtles, protected birds, reptiles and amphibians.IFAW's global 2007 follow-up report, Bidding for Extinction revealed a rampant trade in elephant ivory across eBay's global network of auction sites. Our one-week snapshot survey tracked more than 2,275 ivory items for sale on eight national eBay web sites (UK, Australia, China, Germany, Netherlands, France, Canada and USA).More than 90% of the listings even breached eBay 2019s own wildlife policies. Many sellers were allowed to list items with no provenance of legality while eBays enforcement of their largely vague and variable listing rules appeared haphazard and hopelessly overstrained.As a result of this study and ongoing consultations with IFAW, eBay in June 2007 announced a global ban on cross-border trade in ivory products for all eBay national sites.In 2008, IFAW undertook the largest investigation of the Internet wildlife trade the organization had ever attempted. The results were published in a report entitled Killing with Keystrokes: An Investigation of the Illegal Wildlife Trade on the World Wide Web.In the course of six weeks, IFAW was astonished to find more than 7,000 wild animals and animal products for sale online. This figure was all the more alarming because the survey was restricted to trade only in CITES Appendix 1 species (considered the most endangered in the world), and only in the following categories: primates, elephant, reptiles, large wild cat products, rhinoceroses and birds.IFAW tracked more than US$30 million worth of advertised animal products and over US$3.6 million in actual commerce, meaning money that actually changed hands.This landmark investigation helped us understand the volume and geographic scope of the global Internet wildlife trade, identify key Internet wildlife trade markets, determine the species most affected, and highlight significant issues and trends related to the online trade in wildlife.On October 19, 2008 after further consultations with IFAW about the results of our investigation eBay announced that it was banning all ivory products on all of its platforms worldwide. The Netherlands was not included in the 2008 investigation but we knew it was important to include this country in our findings. Therefore, a follow-up investigation was conducted in the Netherlands in mid-2009.The implications of the growing Internet trade in wildlife reverberate beyond national and regional borders. Yet contemporary international law has fallen behind in its consideration of this deadly Internet activity and current legislation and enforcement schemes have proven insufficient in dealing with the scale of the problem.
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