21 Major Tech Companies Join Forces to Stop Wildlife Trafficking

The internet has made it easier than ever to learn about our impact on wildlife and how we can help. But on the flip side, it has also left us just a few clicks away from being able to buy and sell endangered species, which has allowed a multi-billion dollar illegal trade to flourish online.

As multiple investigations have found, it’s unfortunately easy to find a host of wildlife products for sale online that range anywhere from trinkets made of elephant ivory to exotic pets.

For species already on the brink, the trade in live animals and their parts is having a devastating impact. We hear constantly about the poaching crisis threatening species like elephants and rhinos, but it’s not just large, charismatic species who are being put at risk.

Hundreds of species are being increasingly threatened, ranging from sharks and sea turtles to exotic birds and corals. Animals like pangolins, who are now the most heavily trafficked animal on earth, could disappear forever if we don’t stop the trade.

Unfortunately, these aren’t minor transactions. Globally, the annual value of wildlife crime is worth as much as $20 billion, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

While many companies have policies against the trade, traffickers have been easily able to exploit loopholes, remain anonymous and move to other sites with ease if one cracks down, making it more important than ever for companies to take a proactive role in ending the trade.

Now, they are. In response to the problem, 21 major e-commerce, tech and social media companies from around the world have partnered up with Tencent, TRAFFIC, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to form the first-ever Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online.

Major companies from Google, eBay, Facebook and Pinterest to Microsoft, Instagram and Alibaba will be developing and implementing policies to help end wildlife trafficking across their platforms, and they aim to reduce it online by 80 percent by 2020.

“Bringing these industry giants together is the best shot at systematically closing the open web to wildlife traffickers,” said Crawford Allan, Senior Director, Wildlife Crime at TRAFFIC. “These sites are unwittingly being abused by criminals that are making a killing from selling rare species and products made from their parts. Inconsistent policies across the web invariably create a ‘whack-a-mole’ effect, where ads may be removed from one site just to pop up somewhere else. These companies see the problem and are uniting to ensure an internet where traffickers have nowhere left to turn.”

The approaches taken will vary between sites and will need to continue to be adapted to keep up with traffickers, but their coordinated efforts are a big step in the right direction.

The coalition is calling on more companies to get involved. Consumers can also help by learning more about the species at risk who are being traded online, and reporting items.

For more on how to help as either a company or individual, check out the Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

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