The Black Market for Wildlife is Moving to Social Media

As technology evolves and people seem to become more dependent on their phones and social media, the illegal market, including the wildlife trade, has been evolving with it. Facebook pages and groups specifically for the purpose of selling wildlife are now one of the main ways people trade wildlife and wildlife products. As such, our methods for policing the illegal wildlife trade must also adapt.

Recently, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) launched an investigation into one of these Facebook pages. After a long surveillance of a suspected trader, they inspected his home and found an abundance of wildlife, including two crested serpent eagles, three palm civets, two small Asian mongooses and an oriental pied hornbill. Thankfully, this operation was a success and the animals were all rescued and transported to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center for a medical evaluation. We anticipate that they will soon be ready for release into a protected habitat.

Unfortunately, not all of the WRRT’s investigations into these Facebook pages are as successful as this one. The team regularly monitors many of these online communities, but the people operating the pages are often extremely cautious and take many precautions to avoid being identified and arrested. In one case, WRRT members acted as buyers and tried to arrange a meeting with the seller, but he refused to meet in person or at his home or business. Instead, he sends a front man to deliver the wildlife at a designated location, always in a public space or street, and only after money has been transferred through the middle man. When interviewed by the WRRT, these men claim to have no knowledge of identity of the person is who gave them the wildlife, only that he approached them and paid them to deliver a package to a location.

Despite the difficulties in investigating these Facebook groups, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team members are not backing down and are instead ramping up their investigations. This modern way of illegally trading wildlife is becoming too prevalent to ignore. If you come across one of these Facebook pages selling wildlife in Cambodia, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team asks that you report it to them with any additional details you can provide. You can anonymously report these pages by calling the Wildlife Crime Hotline at 012 500 094 or by sending them a private message on their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/WCHCambodia). You can also support these efforts by donating to the WRRT by selecting ‘End Wildlife Trafficking’ on our donation page.

The WRRT is a Forestry Administration law enforcement unit led by the Forestry Administration, in cooperation with the Military Police, with technical and financial support from the Wildlife Alliance.