The social media company Facebook removed hundreds of ads selling wild animals in the last few weeks. One ad showed a civet cat scared in a cage. “Not too wild, not too-well behaved. If interested, call” the seller wrote on the post, using an account in Myanmar, a major source for the trade in wild animals.
Facebook has a ban on the sale of animals on its platform, but a report seen by Reuters showed World Wildlife Fund (WWF) researchers counted 2,143 wild animals from 94 species for sale on Facebook from Myanmar alone.
A study by TRAFFIC published in early July found more than 2,489 ivory items for sale across Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam on Facebook and Instagram.
Fighting the illegal online wildlife trade poses a serious challenge for governments across Asia, said Elizabeth John, senior communications officer for TRAFFIC.
She said Facebook had been “very proactive in trying to address the online trade” but faced a “considerable logistical challenge” monitoring posts.
Facebook said they remove content that breaches rules as soon as they become aware of it.
“We are committed to working with law enforcement authorities around the world to help tackle the illegal trade of wildlife,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
The company says it uses a combination of technology and reports from NGOs and others to detect and remove content.
Relying on tip-offs isn’t good enough, said Michael Lwin, founder of Myanmar-based tech start-up Koe Koe Tech. “Social media platforms in general need a more systematic response,” Lwin said.
Coronavirus did not stop demand for wild animals
Southeast Asia is a major hub in the multi-billion dollar global wildlife trade and sellers are increasingly using social media due to its massive reach and private chat functions.
“It’s increasing in every country,” said Jedsada Taweekan, a regional program manager for WWF, adding that the volume of wildlife products sold online had approximately doubled since 2015.
Campaigners say the novel coronavirus, which is suspected of having jumped from animals to humans, has not put an end to demand from buyers.
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