The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Runaway poachers hide in web jungle

New Delhi, July 15: Those looking to buy a tiger skin to sleep on or a live gorilla for their private zoo need only a few clicks of the mouse to seal the transaction.

One reason why stopping the poaching business has become so tough is that the trade has gone online.

A weeklong survey of websites, including eBay portals, by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) earlier this year revealed that over 9,000 products, specimens and live animals were on sale over the Internet.

On offer were a live gorilla for sale in London, an endangered hawksbill turtle shot by its proud seller, shahtoosh shawls, rhino horn, whale ear bones and even dried seahorses, said the organisation’s UK campaigns officer (wildlife trade and endangered species), Jenny Hawley.

Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) activists, doing a bit of Net surveying themselves, were surprised to discover that a tiger skin was on sale at last year. In Britain, an advertisement of a full tiger skin to be used as a bedcover on eBay has become the subject of a police probe.

“Trade in endangered species is an enforcement matter and Internet portals have just made it easier,” said WTI director Ashok Kumar.

“When we contacted the person offering a tiger skin on, he said it was an old skin belonging to his father. The website apologised and took off the item.”

IFAW is preparing a report that cites evidence of how the Net is facilitating wildlife trade. It makes concrete recommendations for legislation, law enforcement and action by the web portals themselves.

The report will be handed to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which will work out strategies to deal with this emerging trend, Hawley said.

“We came across shahtoosh shawls being offered for sale by someone in Pakistan. When we contacted him, it turned out that the buyer was based in the UK,” said Kumar, who helps the enforcement authorities in India with legal support in filing cases under the Wildlife Act.

With the portals unable to check trade in banned items, efforts by wildlife conservationists remain isolated. To check this, the portals must take up the responsibility of monitoring their sites and removing the items, activists say.

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