Chinese e-commerce companies crack down on illegal wildlife trade

Posted on June, 08 2012

15 of the leading e-commerce sellers operating in China, including Alibaba, Taobao, and Tencent, have signed a declaration stating they have a zero-tolerance policy towards their services being used to conduct illegal wildlife trading.
Beijing, China - 15 of the leading e-commerce sellers operating in China, including Alibaba, Taobao, and Tencent, have signed a declaration stating they have a zero-tolerance policy towards their services being used to conduct illegal wildlife trading.

The statement says sellers and buyers must comply with all aspects of China’s Wild Animal Protection Law and regulations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) governing the trade in wildlife goods.

The declaration was issued following a workshop on controlling online illegal wildlife trade organized by Chinese authorities in collaboration with WWF’s wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC earlier this month.

Following the workshop, all the e-commerce company representatives read and signed the ‘Commitment to zero-tolerance of illegal online wildlife trade’, as a demonstration of their determination to stop illegal online wildlife trading.

Although wildlife law enforcement efforts in China have led to gains in policing physical markets for wildlife, the availability of illegal wildlife goods online has been gaining ground, as evidenced by the booming popularity of the internet and the burgeoning number of websites where ‘high profile’ animal species or parts, such as elephants, rhinoceroses, tiger and marine turtles, are illegally offered for sale.

In April 2012, TRAFFIC found 3,389 advertisements for tiger bone, elephant ivory, rhino horn and hawksbill turtle products being offered through 15 Chinese-language e-commerce sites and associated auction websites and chat rooms.

China’s wildlife law enforcement authorities are taking positive steps to tackle the issue, through sustained intensive enforcement actions and by holding interagency workshops on the control of illegal online wildlife trade.

In April this year, China’s Forest Police filed 700 relevant cases, shut down 628 online shops and deleted 1,607 pieces of information relating to illegal trade of wildlife from websites.

Mr Zhang Libao, director of the Wildlife Crime Division of the National Forest Police, said police would conduct sustained action against wildlife crime, particularly online trade in tiger bone, rhino horn and ivory.

Mr Wang Weisheng, a Division Chief of the Wildlife Conservation Department of the State Forestry Administration, told participants: “All commercial trade in tiger bone and rhino horn, in any form, has been totally prohibited since 1993. Ivory trade is allowed only in 136 accredited physical shops, so all online trade in ivory products is illegal and thus prohibited.”

He urged e-commerce companies to screen all information relating to these three species in particular, to keep scrutinizing their sites for evidence of illegal wildlife trade as a priority and to collaborate with enforcement agencies to deter online wildlife crime.

“Those operating e-commerce websites and associated online exchanges should make greater efforts to delete all suspect information, provide information on wildlife trade regulations to potential online shoppers, and provide a way for the public to report suspected illegal or fraudulent trade to servers and authorities,” said Ms Xu Ling, TRAFFIC’s Senior Programme Officer in China., the best known B2B e-commerce website in China, has taken a lead in combating illegal online wildlife trade by effectively screening information on all protected animals (and their derivatives) listed in the Wild Animal Protection Law and CITES.

The latest meeting is part of a longer-term campaign led by TRAFFIC and WWF to encourage e-commerce websites to commit to not selling illegal wildlife products, with the aim to reduce both availability and demand for such contraband.

According to Dr Shi Jianbin, Head of TRAFFIC’s China Programme: “TRAFFIC is co-operating with online providers and wildlife enforcement authorities to heighten awareness among potential buyers and sellers about illegal online wildlife trade.

“Results of TRAFFIC’s monitoring of suspected online illegal wildlife trade will be passed on to relevant wildlife enforcement authorities for further investigation, as well as to e-commerce companies to help them in improving their strategies to prevent illegal trade.”

TRAFFIC is a joint programme of WWF and IUCN.

Demand for tiger body parts used in traditional Chinese medicine and habitat fragmentation from unsustainable regional infrastructure development have driven the decline of the region’s Indochinese tiger population.
© Edward Parker/WWF