Media release: TRAFFIC’s e-commerce monitoring reveals shifting illegal wildlife trade market in China. Hugh Paxton’s Blog wants hackers!


Hugh Paxton’s Blog invites any eco-hackers or internet whizz kids to read the following and then embark on a search and destroy mission. Obviously a knowledge of written Chinese would be an advantage but most of these illegal wildlife trade sites carry photos of the ‘products’ on sale. So if you find a Chinese site with pictures of ivory, pangolins, hornbills, rhino horn, skins, horns, leopard and tiger bones you have probably hit the jackpot. Destroying the site might be simplest. Replacing it with a conservation message might be more difficult, but might be effective. If you do either let TRAFFIC know the details. It will help them keep up to date with the state of play.

Your efforts will be most helpful in obstructing and frustrating this evil and destructive trade and will be greatly appreciated.

Read on a learn a bit more about what is going on in the Chinese whispers of cyberspace.

From: Richard Thomas []
Sent: Tuesday, March 03, 2015 3:30 PM
To: Richard Thomas
Subject: Media release: TRAFFIC’s e-commerce monitoring reveals shifting illegal wildlife trade market in China

Dear Media Professional,

On the occasion of World Wildlife Day, TRAFFIC is releasing outcomes of its long-term monitoring of e-commerce websites in China. These find substantial shifts in online retailing patterns over time. The full report can be downloaded from:

Below is a related media release. Please contact me or Sammi for images or other materials. Best regards Richard

For immediate release

TRAFFIC’s e-commerce monitoring reveals shifting illegal wildlife trade market in China

Beijing, China, 3rd March 2015—Transactions for illegal wildlife products, particularly ivory, are shifting away from online retailers and onto social media platforms according to TRAFFIC’s research into the Chinese-language online retail community.

This is a key finding of a new report, Moving targets: Tracking online sales of illegal wildlife products in China, which discloses the results of routine market monitoring of China’s online retailers that began in 2006 and is released today, World Wildlife Day.

At its peak in March 2012, more than 4,000 new advertisements per month for illegal wildlife products were appearing online on Chinese language online retail websites, finds the new report. More than half of the illegal products offered comprised ivory items.

However, following advertisement removal and blocking of code words used to describe illegal products through regular exchange with e-commerce and enforcement agencies by TRAFFIC, this fell dramatically to around 1,500 from July 2012 and has remained around that level ever since.

“Major online retailers in China have been important allies in efforts to stamp out illegal wildlife trade, and their efforts have resulted in a sustained decrease in advertisements for such goods, yet the high number of such advertisements remains of concern and we are also seeing a shift in the way such transactions now take place,” said Zhou Fei, Head of TRAFFIC’s China Office.

One change has been an increase in the number of code words used by sellers to conceal the identity of their goods, from 15 code words used in 2012 to 64 identified and monitored by TRAFFIC today. At least 22 code words exist for ivory, including terms such as “African materials, yellow materials, white plastic, jelly”.

All 64 code words are searched each month by TRAFFIC on 25 e-commerce and antique selling websites for eight wildlife products — ivory, rhino horn, Tiger bone, hawksbill shells, pangolin scales, leopard bones, Saiga horn and Hornbill casques.

There has also been evidence of the move to social media, where dealers release photos and information about illegal wildlife products in order to attract and interact with potential customers. Some dealers also use “agents” to extend their audiences by re-posting the information about illegal wildlife products onto their own social media platform.

“The shift into the secretive world of social media marketing creates a whole new suite of challenges, with enforcement agencies constantly seeking to keep one step ahead of the traffickers,” said Yannick Kuehl, TRAFFIC’s Regional Director for East and South Asia.

“Monitoring and policing this underground marketplace must become a top enforcement priority—it appears criminals are using it to carry out their clandestine activities.”


1. China has the world’s biggest online community with an estimated USD 274.6 billion spent in online trade in 2014.

2. The number of new illegal wildlife products observed by TRAFFIC online fell dramatically, as did the total number of such advertisements: In January 2012, TRAFFIC discovered almost 30,000 advertisements for five illegal wildlife products on 15 websites then surveyed. This rose to more than 50,000 in the next two months but dropped again in April 2012 to around 30,000 after TRAFFIC contacted and shared the monitoring results with website managers, several of whom immediately deleted the identified advertisements.

Number of monthly new wildlife products advertisements (January 2012-September 2014)

Number of total illegal wildlife product advertisements in monitored Chinese-language websites (January 2012-September 2014)

3. The full report will be available at:

4. TRAFFIC was founded in 1976 and is the leading non-governmental organization working globally on trade in wild animals and plants.

For more information,please contact: Sammi Li, Communication Officer, TRAFFIC, Email:

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