Dionysius Sharma, Director of the WWF (Asia) indicated that illegal wildlife traders in Asia are becoming more sophisticated and are able to use online media sites to reach “a broader audience”. The South China Morning Post reported that Traffic, the wildlife trade monitor is concerned about the large numbers of online trade deals that involve endangered species.

Ivory & Rhino horn for sale

A report released by Traffic set to coincide with the World Wildlife Day on 3 March 2016, said that it is not just Facebook that is of concern. In China last year, websites such as QQ and WeChat carried thousands of posts, many involving ivory, and up to 77 entire rhino horns.

These figures were procured after just one month of monitoring last year.

Social site Instagram was another site that has been used to host adverts for trafficking. Photos and descriptions were found describing the items for sale. Astonishingly, it was pointed out that the traders appear to be “relaxed” as they even post up their contact details and on occasion will advertise to “deliver.”

Facebook in Malaysia

The bulk of the report released by Traffic focused on the use of Facebook in Malaysia. Facebook is very popular in the region and Traffic is particularly concerned about closed groups. Traffic reportedly found that 14 “wildlife Trading Groups” had nearly seventy thousand active members. Rare birds, bears and other endangered animals were posted up in droves and it appears the final deals are done via apps such as WhatsApp and Blackberry.

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Closed groups on Facebook are difficult to monitor as they can close down, change names and re-emerge elsewhere which makes it very difficult for the law enforcement agencies to control. The call was made for closer relations and co-operation between law-enforcement authorities and Facebook.

Traffic reported that a spokesman for Facebook said they don’t “allow trade in endangered animals” on the platform, but they are committed to working to address the issue. Meanwhile, in Malaysia, the wildlife department acknowledged that they had become aware of the problem and that there had been some arrests.