Civic Tech Environment

Tech Cos form Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online

Tech cos have removed or blocked over 11.6 million listings for endangered species and associated products.

New Delhi: Online technology companies in the ‘Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online’ reported removing or blocking over 11.6 million listings for endangered species and associated products from their online platforms to date.

These listings included live tigers, reptiles, primates, and birds for the exotic pet trade, as well as products derived from species such as elephants, pangolins, and marine turtles.

The Coalition released a progress update — Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online: 2021 Progress Update — late on Tuesday night to highlight the threat online trade poses to wildlife populations and spotlight the progress made through engagement with the private sector in an industry-wide approach.

“In addition to removing and blocking millions of listings and posts, the Coalition companies have driven awareness of threats to endangered species as well as an understanding of what is prohibited on company platforms and reporting mechanisms among users through communications that have received more than 1 billion engagements on social media,” a release from the Coalition said.

Since the launch of the Coalition by World Wildlife Fund (WWF), TRAFFIC and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in 2018, the number of companies participating doubled from 21 to 47 in 2021, and the companies include those with operations across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas and comprising more than 11 billion user accounts around the world.

“Since the release of the Coalition’s 2020 progress report 18 months ago, Coalition companies have removed an additional 8.3 million listings for prohibited wildlife,” said Senior Director of TRAFFIC at World Wildlife Fund, Crawford Allan.

“This is due to increased availability of wildlife online and subsequent response by companies to address this threat, including enhanced automated detection systems. Overall, it is a fraction of prohibited wildlife that’s out there, but we will continue to scale our impact even further with determined efforts by more companies globally.”

Member companies have taken various actions to contribute to this progress, including strengthening wildlife policies, increasing staff ability to detect potential illegal wildlife products and live animals, taking action on suspicious listings reported by wildlife experts and volunteers in the Coalition’s Wildlife Cyber Spotter Program, enhancing algorithms through provided search words, creating reporting pathways and pop-up alerts to empower users to report suspicious content and sharing best practices with one another.

“The volunteers that are trained as part of the Coalition’s Cyber Spotter Programme are our extra set of eyes on the web. They are provided with information on priority species, such as elephants, birds, and reptiles, and whenever they suspect a violation, they report it to us after which we share it with the related platforms for further action,” said Wildlife Campaigner at IFAW, Lionel Hachemin. “To date, with rounds in Germany, China, France, the US and Singapore, over 11,000 listings for illegal wildlife were reported to company members.”

Online wildlife trafficking is driven by consumer demand for wildlife products such as elephant ivory, rhino horn and big cat skins, as well as for live pets, which is partly fuelled by the promotion of exotic pet ownership and interactions on social media. Illegal wildlife trade, both online and in physical markets, is decimating populations of wild species and is a contributor to the catastrophic biodiversity loss seen globally, the release added.