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Hacking the Illegal Trade in Wildlife

A white rhino slaughtered for its horn in southern Africa. © Picture Alliance

A white rhino slaughtered for its horn in southern Africa. © Picture Alliance

By Bill Laurance & David Salt

Hackers should be deployed to disrupt a $23 billion online market in wildlife and wildlife parts.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

All around the world, forests and other ecosystems are falling silent, their wildlife populations decimated by illegal hunting and wildlife trading.

The internet is a central part of this killing ground, with much of the illegal trade happening online. The trade in illegal wildlife and wildlife parts is estimated to be worth more than $23 billion per year, making it one of the most profitable criminal enterprises in the world.

This trade involves far more than elephant tusks and rhino horns. It also impacts thousands of other species including big cats, hornbills, orangutans, gorillas, songbirds, sharks, lizards, frogs, and rare plants such as orchids.

A recent report by the wildlife group TRAFFIC found 80 species openly for sale on Facebook in Peninsular Malaysia. More than 90% of those species are legally protected by Malaysian law, yet they’re being bought and sold freely online.

Much of the global trade in wildlife is driven by high demand from Asia. In...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.