CITES takes a Byte out of Wildlife Cybercrime cybercriminals will be under more scrutiny than ever following the commitment by all 183 Parties to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), to stamp out illegal online wildlife trade.

The decision was taken at a high level meeting held during the CoP17 of the CITES being held in Johannesburg, South Africa this week.

“This decision will lead to a much more cohesive counter offensive against wildlife cybercriminals, in that it brings together enforcers, online market places and social media platforms from across the globe in a common mission to save wildlife,” said Tania McCrea-Steele, Global Wildlife Cybercrime Project Lead for IFAW.

McCrea-Steele said IFAW welcomed the Secretariat’s intention to engage with online marketplaces and social media platforms in order to crack down on wildlife cybercriminals.

Wildlife cybercrime is a serious threat to endangered species as research conducted by IFAW since 2004 has clearly established. Most recently in 2014 IFAW’s Wanted: Dead or Alive – Exposing Online Wildlife Trade found more than 30,000 endangered and protected live wildlife and their parts and products available for sale over a six week period across 16 countries. The value of the items was in excess of US$10-million.
Wednesday’s decision at CITES came during a meeting where Governments and NGO’s gathered to consider the fast growing threat of illegal Internet trade in wildlife.

The decision calls on INTERPOL to bring together the enforcement community in order to effectively police online wildlife crime. Parties will now also have the opportunity to convene and review their legislation.

The document was tabled by Kenya, whose representative said the country was concerned by the threat that wildlife cybercrime poses to the survival of endangered wildlife.

“Enforcement operations and prosecutions show that criminals who seek to profit from the illegal trade in endangered wildlife are now utilizing the internet to enable their criminal activities,” said Kenya.

“It is essential that we have robust laws specifically addressing the unique threat posed by online wildlife crime while also increasing enforcement knowledge and intelligence on this issue. In addition, it is necessary to engage e-commerce platforms who can assist law enforcers but also improve consumer awareness.”

Parties that spoke in favor of the decision were: Syria, Guinea, Israel, India, Malaysia, Senegal, Liberia, Costa Rica, the Maldives, Nigeria, South Africa and the European Union.