The Chinese government and the major online sellers in China have agreed to work together to crack down on the menace of online selling of endangered species. 15 of the major e-commerce businesses have agreed to monitor for adverts of endangered species.
The 15 businesses, including the largest operators in China such as Alibaba, Taobao, and Tencent, have signed a declaration stating they will operate a zero-tolerence attitude to selling illegal wildlife products on their sites.
All commercial trade in tiger bone and rhino horn, in any form, has been totally prohibited since 1993. Ivory trade is allowed only in 136 accredited physical shops, so all online trade in ivory products is illegal and thus prohibited.
Online trading of endangered wildlife is increasing.
Online trading is becoming more popular with criminals and smugglers as local law enforcement officers strike at physical markets and addresses. In April this year TRAFFIC recorded 3,389 adverts for endangered species parts on 15 Chinese language web sites including e-commerce sites, auctions sites and in chat rooms.
Even though Chinese law enforcement have had some success in tackling online trade – in April they shut down 628 online shops and removed over 1600 messages from web sites detailing illegal wildlife trading – there is still a need for the established online operators to tighten up their rules on selling.
The biggest and best known Chinese e-tailer, Alibaba, has already put in place facilities to screen information on all endangered species that is attempted to be posted to their website. E-traders in tiger, rhino and elephant will be targeted in Chinese crackdown.
China’s wildlife police have announced that they will be targeting traders in three particular species – tiger, rhino and elephant – and advised all online retailers and auction houses to screen their items for these species.
Mr Wang Weisheng, a Division Chief of the Wildlife Conservation Department of the State Forestry Administration, told participants: “All commercial trade in tiger bone and rhino horn, in any form, has been totally prohibited since 1993. Ivory trade is allowed only in 136 accredited physical shops, so all online trade in ivory products is illegal and thus prohibited.”
Ms Xu Ling, TRAFFIC’s Senior Programme Officer in China said, “Those operating e-commerce websites and associated online exchanges should make greater efforts to delete all suspect information, provide information on wildlife trade regulations to potential online shoppers, and provide a way for the public to report suspected illegal or fraudulent trade to servers and authorities.”
According to Dr Shi Jianbin, Head of TRAFFIC’s China Programme: “TRAFFIC is co-operating with online providers and wildlife enforcement authorities to heighten awareness among potential buyers and sellers about illegal online wildlife trade.
“Results of TRAFFIC’s monitoring of suspected online illegal wildlife trade will be passed on to relevant wildlife enforcement authorities for further investigation, as well as to e-commerce companies to help them in improving their strategies to prevent illegal trade.”
Web sites hosting wildlife adverts could be prosecuted.
There was also a warning given to websites who decided to ignore the new online crackdown. Mr Zhang Libao, director of the Wildlife Crime Division of the National Forest Police, reminded online operators that they could be prosecuted according to Article 22 of the Wild Animal Protection Law and Article 341 of the Criminal Law. He also said Forest Police would conduct sustained action against wildlife crime, particularly online trade in tiger bone, rhino horn and ivory.