VIEWS: 12 PAGES: 3 POSTED ON: 5/9/2011
This heart-wrenching, sickening photo shows the remains of an endangered Asian Elephant, brutally killed for its ivory tusks and feet, which will be used to make jewelry and “exotic furniture”. An Asian Elephant mother and “child”. Elephants are highly intelligent, deep-feeling animals. Making a Killing: The Evil Ivory Trade on the Web International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Thousands of products made from animals and wildlife are being sold on the web each day and many of these animals are endangered species. Commercial wildlife trade is incredibly destructive to our eco-system and each one of us has a responsibility to stop buying and selling wildlife products. The Internet Jungle is alive and well, sadly, and the electronic trade in wildlife products is just one of its victims. It’s very difficult to find out whether certain items are legal or not – in accordance with the national and international regulations on the protection of animal species. The only way to know for sure is not to get involved in the wildlife trade in the first place. Only when the buying stops will the killing stop too. In 2005, The International Fund for Animal Welfare in the UK scoured English language Internet sites for illegal wildlife offers. Some of the items sold online were shocking; a young gorilla for which the minimum bid started at 6,750 Euros ($10,660 US dollars), a 1.5 meter long carved ivory tusk and an elephant’s foot as a barstool. In only one week, more than 9,000 items made from endangered species were found on various websites. Elephants, primates, tortoises, crocodiles and wildcats were the focus of the IFAW investigation. Given the restrictions of these five search criteria, the results are only the tip of the international animal trade iceberg. The ecological impact of the gentle, emotional elephant is priceless! Elephants provide a vital role in the ecosystem they inhabit. They modify their habitat by converting savannah and woodlands to grasslands. They can provide water for other species by digging water holes in dry riverbed depressions created by their footprints. Elephants act as seed dispersers by their fecal matter which is carried below ground by dung beetles and termites, causing the soil to become more aerated and further distributing the nutrients. Their paths act as firebreaks and rain water conduits. An Elephant’s journey through the high grass provides food for birds by disturbing small reptiles, amphibians and insects. High hit rate for wild animal products on eBay Worldwide on eBay auction sites, users quickly find what they are looking for when entering search terms such as “tortoise shell, ivory, crocodile, monkey, hunting trophies, furs”. A recent follow-up study by IFAW investigated the trade in wildlife via eBay sites in eight countries. The results were all the more alarming. More than 90 percent of the wildlife products found for auction violated the (minimal) ivory listing regulations of the respective eBay website. IFAW's investigation clearly proves one thing: the Internet represents a considerable threat to the survival of wild animals. Undercover wildlife traders The Internet serves as a platform for the trade in wild animals and wild animal products and it is used by indifferent, unscrupulous and criminal individuals to process their illegal transactions relatively unchecked. When it comes to private offers such as on eBay, buyers and sellers frequently do not think about the consequences of their offers. But it does not matter whether these are deliberate or unknowing actions – the increasing number of Internet transactions means untold suffering for millions of animals as well as a serious danger of extinction for many species. In May 2005, IFAW launched its “Think Twice – Don’t Buy Wildlife Souvenirs” campaign which pointed out the wide range of wildlife products available at typical holiday and vacation destinations. Online offers frequently involve common travel souvenirs such as belts and bags made of reptile leather or items of jewelry made of ivory. According to the report "Caught in the Web", the souvenir market is not just restricted to trade in popular tourist regions. Typical products from far-away countries can be easily ordered from home with a simple click of the mouse. A lucrative business at the expense of animals The greater the demand for trophies, travel souvenirs, luxury items or even exotic pets, the more animals suffer. The illegal wildlife trade on the Internet is a lucrative business for poachers, spurring them on to catch and kill more animals. The rarer and more exotic the animal, the higher the price it fetches – so long as there are buyers. The result: species that are already endangered face the very serious threat of extinction. Protecting these animals is becoming more and more challenging. Facilitated by the ease of the Internet, the sale of illegal products is made even easier thanks to the tremendous speed of transactions and a complete lack of regulation. IFAW is demanding stricter laws and controls from governments and website operators. However, as a user, you should also be aware of your responsibility and influence when you do buy online. One false click and you may be threatening endangered species worldwide. Visit www.ifaw.org for more information on how you can help these gentle, colossal creatures.
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