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Online wildlife markets are wiping out animals

The world’s biggest retail markets for illegal wildlife products and endangered animals can be found on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and China’s WeChat. Organized crime groups selling illegal wildlife – both parts and live animals – are taking advantage of the enormous number of social media users, and the anonymity the platforms provide, to reach an unprecedented number of customers. While it’s complex to determine the full scale of the online wildlife trade, because of the wide range of species being traded, social media use has grown rapidly across Asia in recent years. China’s WeChat, for example, has one billion users, including roughly 83% of China’s smartphone users. It’s prime competitor is Facebook, which has 400 million users across Asia, making it the firm’s largest market.

CINTOC's Investigation into Wildlife Trafficking on Facebook

A six-month investigation by ACCO member CINTOC identified multiple organized crime networks in Vietnam which each were moving more than one-ton of ivory every month using Facebook and WeChat to reach customers.

Wildlife Traffickers Using Facebook Sell Half All Horn Sold

A 2016 study by The Wildlife Justice Commission  identified 51 Vietnamese traffickers who  sold 579 rhino horn in one year, equal to half the rhinos poached in South Africa.

How Facebook Groups Became a Bizarre Bazaar for Elephant Tusks

In Facebook groups, wildlife traffickers can hawk their wares to buyers across the globe. A team of whistleblowers hopes that an undercover sting—and a novel legal attack—can cut off the illicit trade where it lives online.