Want a baby chimpanzee, a tiger, a polar bear skin? Well, a couple of clicks online and they are yours, along with a host of other animals – live or as body parts. The illegal wildlife trade is a $20 billion global industry and is increasingly migrating online. An IFAW report in 2014 found 33,000 items for sale online across 16 countries and worth more than US$ 9,000,000. Kenya Wildlife Services, with the help of IFAW, are now providing special training for law enforcement officers to tackle the scourge head on.
Taking the fight against wildlife cybercrime to Kenya
BY TANIA McCREA-STEELE | IFAW | JANUARY 25 2017
Wildlife cybercrime is illegal wildlife trade that has migrated online, enabling criminals to reach a much larger market, one that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This illegal activity isn’t hampered by geographical boundaries and the players are protected by some level of anonymity.
IFAW has been researching online wildlife trade since 2004, and in a comprehensive study in late 2014 we found tens of thousands of live endangered animals and their body parts available for sale on the web in a period of less than two months.
That report, Wanted: Dead or Alive, examined illegal sales across just eight percent of the world’s countries across the continents of North America, Asia and Europe. So just imagine that scale of trade across the entire world – month in, month out.
Wanted, at the time, didn’t examine any countries in Africa. But since access to the internet in Africa is now rapidly increasing, and criminals are so much closer to where some of the animals victimized by wildlife trade originate, it’s essential that we ensure enforcers there are equipped to arrest and prosecute wildlife cybercriminals.
Kenya demonstrated its commitment to being at the forefront of the online battle at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife Fauna and Flora (CITES) Conference of the Parties hosted in Johannesburg in 2016. Kenya championed a public commitment that obtained the support of 183 countries pledging to crackdown on wildlife cybercrime by ensuring best practise models are established for enforcement, the development of laws and engaging with online tech companies.
It’s only been a few months since Kenya’s very public declaration to tackle wildlife cybercrime and already we are seeing words translate to action with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) delivering wildlife cybercrime training to a team of Kenyan enforcers this January.
Online wildlife crime poses a serious threat to endangered wildlife, including elephants, rhinos, reptiles and birds, and we need to see enforcement efforts across the globe increase if we are to protect these animals from being captured or killed and then traded in the world’s biggest marketplace.
This month I had the honour of meeting some of these frontline rangers who display remarkable bravery, putting themselves at risk in order to prevent poaching and capture and prosecute those who seek to profit from the slaughter of endangered animals.
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