“The world’s biggest marketplace”, open 24/7, the internet has become a favorite venue for unlimited global wildlife trafficking, with experts calling for greater oversight of online trading platforms.
This is what the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and non-governmental organizations advocate, particularly in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which has been held in Panama since 14 of November and is scheduled to end on Friday.
At the end of this meeting, which is crucial for the protection of biodiversity, trade in several additional species must be banned or severely restricted. According to Interpol, wildlife trafficking is increasing by 5-7% a year.
But we must “go further” by forcing “platforms to withdraw their content” and “imposing heavy fines”, recommends Lionel Hachemin, director of projects at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), associated with the AFP.
Between 2016 and 2021, he followed classified advertisements of illegal animal species in France, published on public e-commerce sites in general, but also through private groups on social networks such as Facebook, WhatsApp or Signal. As a result, more than 1,800 advertisements were registered, offering spotted cats, Hermann tortoises or even colorful macaws for sale.
The IFAW created, together with the WWF and Traffic, the Coalition Against Online Wildlife Trafficking, which aims to help e-commerce companies “develop a policy that protects their users and their business activities, while preventing the trafficking of wild life”.
To this end, the NGO helped the French classifieds website Leboncoin to strengthen its regulations by banning the sale of ivory objects and gray parrots from Gabon.
– France, a hub –
Gabonese gray parrots, bull frogs, boa constrictors, but also ivory, pangolin scales and game meat: every year, tens of thousands of kilos of wild species enter and leave France illegally, fueling a global traffic estimated by Interpol at several billions of dollars a year.
France, with its 12 overseas territories present in five biodiversity “hotspots”, is a hub for wildlife trafficking. Considered “the third most lucrative transnational organized crime activity in the world”, according to the Intergovernmental Scientific Platform on Biodiversity (IPBES), this trafficking contributes to the disappearance of wild species.
In 2021 alone, “36 tons of illegal wildlife products were seized in Terminal 2 at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport”, where flights from Africa arrive, according to the IUCN, including about ten tons of game meat (pangolin, primates, bats, agoutis… ).
But France is also a “source” country. The explosion in poaching of glass eels, eel fry, whose export has been banned outside the EU since 2009, is a good example. Caught on the Atlantic coast, this endangered migratory fish is then exported to Asia, mainly to China and Thailand.
In 2021, a network of traffickers, suspected of having exported more than 46 tons of glass eels and laundered 18.5 million euros in the process, was dismantled in France.
The European goldfinch, appreciated for its melodious song and whose French population has declined by 50% in twenty years, is also the object of a trade that takes it both to the Maghreb and to Belgium.
The fight against the trafficking of wild animals is being strengthened in France, in particular with the “law of November 30, 2021 aimed at combating animal abuse” which prohibits the sending of vertebrate animals by mail and prohibits the online sale of animals by non-professionals.
However, this fight faces two major obstacles: on the one hand, the lack of means allocated to the fighting organizations and, on the other hand, the incomplete training of magistrates.
“The magistrates must have sufficient means to track cross-border trafficking, which is often very powerful, and they must be able to rely on specialized assistants who provide their knowledge of the seized money”, recommends Sébastien Mabile, lawyer and vice-president of the French committee of the IUCN.