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.