Thai FB wildlife sales rife: report

A wildlife monitoring group says there has been a sharp rise since 2016 in Thai Facebook groups trading in endangered animals.

Traffic said many of the species on sale, despite having international protection, were not native to Thailand, and so trading them was unregulated.

The monitoring group’s research found 1,521 animals for sale in 12 Facebook groups in Thailand over a month of monitoring in 2016. Follow-up research in July said at least nine were still active in July this year, with one becoming secret, and their overall membership rising to 203,445 from 106,111.

Among the 200 species listed for sale were two non-native species banned from international commercial trade: the Eurasian otter and the black-spotted turtle.

Other animals available, which are banned from international commercial trade, are native to Thailand, such as the helmeted hornbill and Siamese crocodile (both critically endangered) and the Asiatic black bear.

Maethinee Phassaraudomsak of Traffic in Thailand told the media that research “shows how easy it is to carry out this business and market wildlife publicly while staying anonymous and out of reach of the authorities”.

Screenshots show a rare hornbill and the caption “a baby rhinoceros hornbill is available for purchase. Interested buyers, please contact by Facebook private message”. The bird’s price was listed as Bt9,500 (US$289).

It said almost all the animals on sale were juveniles.

In 2013, Thailand was listed as having the largest unregulated elephant ivory market in the world but it has since introduced legislation to address the issue.

Thailand’s wildlife protection laws did not prohibit the sale of 47 per cent of the advertised species mentioned in the report and this was sometimes the case with the non-native species.

Cath Lawson, chief adviser at the charity WWF (the World Wildlife Fund), said the illegal online trade of animals was a growing concern.

“The illegal wildlife trade is a serious international crime problem,” Lawson said.

“It takes place in the real world, but also increasingly in digital spaces.

“This is a global problem and needs global solutions, which include increasing law enforcement, raising awareness and reducing demand for wildlife products.”

The social-media giant replied: “Facebook does not allow the sale or trade of endangered species or their parts, and we remove this material as soon as we are aware of it. We are committed to working with Traffic and the law enforcement authorities to help tackle the illegal online trade of wildlife in Thailand.”

Thailand’s endangered helmeted hornbill. Picture credit: Wikimedia