Saturday, 8 September 2012

Illegal wildlife trading in internet's deepest, darkest corners

Bashful and skittish, the Kaiser's spotted newt is intriguing and beautiful. With only around 1,000 adults left in the wild in just four mountain streams in Iran, it is also critically endangered.
But the black, white and orange salamanders are openly on sale for as little as £65 on numerous websites. While these may have been bred in captivity, they are descended from rare individuals taken from the wild, and investigators have identified dealers who say their stocks come from Iran.
Two years ago the Kaiser's spotted newt was listed as one of the first species to be put at risk of extinction by online dealers. Now conservationists are warning that the internet is fueling unprecedented levels of illegal wildlife trade and that for many species this is now the principal threat to their survival.
A report due to be published later this year concludes that a growing proportion of wildlife crime is using "deep web" tools more commonly associated with serious financial criminals, drug traffickers and child pornographers.
"The internet has without a doubt facilitated the huge expansion of illegal international wildlife trading over the last decade," said Crawford Allan, of the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic. "Rare jewels of the forest can now be caught, boxed and shipped almost overnight just like any other express commodity."

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