Environmental activists in Malaysia have expressed concerns that people are gradually using Facebook as an online marketplace for trading in endangered wildlife species. One organization, which has been monitoring the illegal trade on Facebook, Wildlife Monitoring Network Traffic, said the trade involves many endangered species.
Traffic stated that it discovered through an intensive research on Facebook, hundreds of protected animals are being sourced and sold. These animals include sun bears, gibbons, binturongs or bearcats, amongst others. The trade is not only limited in Malaysia, with it now spreading to other parts of the world due to the power of the social media network.
The researchers who monitored the trade on Facebook for Traffic reported the monitoring of 14 groups on Facebook. The monitoring – for 30 minutes daily over a period of five months revealed there were more than 300 wild animals put on sale as pets on the network.
Almost half of the species recorded were protected and illegal to sell under Malaysian law. The researchers said about 25 of the 69 non-native animals were protected under the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Sarah Stoner, the lead author of the research said her team discovered that the illegal trade of wildlife on Facebook is booming in Malaysia. “You often find that in trading, there is a small percentage of people involved in illegal activity. But we identified 236 posts where there was perceived illegal activity, there were 106 different sellers, that’s quite a lot of different people and it shows how prevalent it is,” she said.
Wildlife conservationists said illegal open wildlife markets are very rare in Malaysia, and that this new research is very shocking for the country. The researchers said they have passed on their findings to both the Malaysian authorities and Facebook.
Malaysia’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks told reporters that since it received the findings of the study from Traffic, it has carried out 43 successful seizures. It has also arrested at least 54 illegal traders and saved over 67 wildlife species from being traded illegally on Facebook.
Facebook also said it is developing practical solutions to combat the illegal trade on its platform, so they can protect these endangered species. The popular social media network announced its readiness to cooperate with Traffic and law enforcement agencies in Malaysia, to flush out the illegal traders.
“We are committed to working with Traffic to help tackle the illegal online trade of wildlife in Malaysia. Facebook does not allow the sale and trade of endangered animals and we will not hesitate to remove any content that violates our terms of service,” a Facebook representative said in a statement.
Traffic believed that law enforcement officials will find it challenging to completely stop the illegal trade on the Internet, due to the increasing usage of social media platforms and smartphones by the majority of the world’s population.
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