Thousands of wild animals put up for sale on Facebook, NGO reveals
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Traffic, an NGO dedicated to monitoring the trade in wild animals, has estimated that more than 1,500 wild animals are put up for sale on the world’s largest social network every month.
Maethinee Phassaraudomsuk, representing Traffic Southeast Asia, mentioned the estimated figures while speaking at a meeting in Bangkok, which was reported on by Thai news outlet The Nation. The talk precedes the publication of a Traffic report, Trading Faces, that examines the Facebook-based wildlife trade in Thailand. The report will be published this week.
Thailand is used as a source and transit point for the exotic food, trinket and pet trades, with animals often passing from other Southeast Asian countries through Thailand to China, Japan and elsewhere.
The vast majority of wildlife shops in Bangkok were shut down following the rollout of the Elephant Ivory Tusk Act in 2015, which banned the trade and ownership of African elephant ivory. Much of that trade moved online. Charities, law enforcement agencies and tech companies are all working to stamp out this trade and have been embracing new technologies to achieve better results.
Phassaraudomsuk revealed that the wild animals most frequently advertised on Facebook were the slow loris and the African spurred tortoise. The slow lorises make up a threatened group of small, nocturnal primates which have become a popular novelty pet due to their supposedly docile nature and overly large ‘cute’ eyes. However, their teeth are extracted for the pet trade - often resulting in deadly infection for the animal - and they often die in transit and captivity. The African spurred tortoise - one of the world’s largest tortoises - is also classified as vulnerable and is a highly challenging pet which few owners are prepared to properly accommodate.
Other popular exotic animals advertised on Facebook include the red-whiskered bulbul (a vocal Asian bird), green iguanas, pythons and Asian palm civets (medium-sized mammals used to produce Kopi Luwak coffee). Wild animals of 200 species were advertised in 756 posts in private trading groups in 2016, Traffic reported, amounting to over 1,500 individual animals on average per month.
“The wild animals are traded live, dead or in parts. They are smuggled to be raised as pets, sold as ingredients to high-end restaurants or sold to collectors,” said Phassaraudomsuk, according to The Nation. For instance, the vulnerable moon bear is an ingredient in traditional medicine and is considered a luxury food in Laos.
Facebook – among other internet giants – has vowed to tackle the online trade in wild animals and is reportedly in the process of developing a policy to target 80 per cent of the trade on its platform. However, as E&T previously reported, the tightening of data protection policies could hinder its efforts to stamp out the trade.