Social media have exacerbated the scourge of wildlife trafficking by providing traffickers with easy access to prospective customers.
Facebook is a handy social media platform for keeping touch with friends and relatives and for keeping abreast of developments. Sadly, the site has also become a convenient tool for wildlife traffickers to reach an ever wider pool of potential buyers for their ill-gotten fare.
This has long been the case across Southeast Asia, where wildlife traffickers have resorted to selling rare, “exotic” and endangered species on social media. Not long ago the anti-trafficking watchdog TRAFFIC revealed that the hugely popular social media platform has become a hot bed in countries like Malaysia and Vietnam for the illegal trade in protected species as part of a booming exotic pet trade conducted online.
Now the wildlife monitoring group says it has also found that in Thailand too there is a thriving online trade in endangered species. The group’s researchers, who began monitoring 12 Thailand-based Facebook groups, discovered that as many as 1,521 animals were offered for sale in just one month. Worse: many of these groups had large memberships, which indicates a booming trade in protected species.
TRAFFIC notes that of the 200 species offered for sale on Facebook in Thailand during a month of monitoring included critically endangered helmeted hornbills (Rhinoplax vigil), Siamese crocodiles (Crocodylus siamensis) and palm civets (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus). “The Sunda slow loris (Nycticebus coucang) illegally traded as a pet and a photo prop for tourists was the most commonly encountered animal with 139 individuals offered for sale,” the group says.
Experts worldwide have been warning that unless the thriving online trade in endangered animals and their parts is stamped out, the planet’s biodiversity will continue to shrink at alarming rates. Social media have exacerbated the scourge of wildlife trafficking by providing traffickers with easy access to prospective customers.
“I was aware of the trade of wildlife on Facebook in Thailand, but it is always shocking to see how easy it is to offer protected animals for sale, and how easy it is to buy them,” Vincent Nijman, a professor of anthropology at Oxford Brookes University in the UK, has observed to an online wildlife protection website. “The general public often thinks that the illegal wildlife trade takes place in shady places, in hidden alleyways or on the dark web, but in reality much of it takes place in places for all to see.”