Illegal wildlife trade explodes with advent of Internet

PETALING JAYA - The Internet has made a booming trade out of endangered wildlife in Malaysia, allowing people to illegally buy an animal in as short a time as a day.

A search by The Star on major advertising sites showed postings offering endangered animals - anything from a tortoise to a tiger - for sale through a simple online transaction.

All the buyers have to do is to merely search for the animal through the various postings, contact the seller and negotiate a price and delivery method.

An inquiry by The Star for the endangered Radiated Tortoise on a local classified website showed that most sellers responded to inquiries on Whatsapp within a day.

The sellers were ever ready to proceed with the sale and agreed to deliver the tortoise via post after the transfer of funds into their account.

Traffic South-East Asia regional director Dr Chris R. Shepherd said there were "countless number of dealers plying the trade through the social media, classified pages and websites".

"Due to the countless avenues that online trade has presented to illegal wildlife traders, it has become a growing problem for enforcement agents.

"Traders are selling anything that you can think of online and getting away with it," claimed Dr Shepherd.

Department of Wildlife and Na­­tional Parks deputy director-general Dr Zaaba Zainol Abidin said most illegal wildlife traders were part of organised crime gangs.

"This makes it difficult to shut down their activities," he said.

However, Dr Zaaba admitted that currently, investigations into illegal trade were carried out in a reactive manner - only acting whenever something happened or when a report was lodged.

"After the report is filed, we will track the websites or webpages. In some cases, we have to go undercover to investigate the report," he said.

According to the International Fund For Animal Welfare 2013 report on "Criminal Nature", global illegal trade in wildlife was worth some RM62billion (S$24 billion) annually.