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Issue 17
, 2009
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Cyber Crime :Illegal Selling Of Endangered Species

Source: AFP,Discovery News, Date: , 2009

 Illegal on-line sales of endangered species have raised serious concerns amongst the species preservation lobbies , agencies and civil societies worldwide.

Advertisements on the Internet to woo buyers into taking "playful primates" from Cameroon into their homes have become one of the primary means of further threatening already endangered species.

Such sales would be illegal, since dealing in primates is forbidden in the central African country. In the past three years, however, the Internet has led to a flourishing trade in endangered species, according to an environmental activist in the front line.

Ofir Drori directs a small non-governmental organization, the Last Great Ape Organization (Laga-Cameroon), which works in conjunction with the Cameroonian ministry of forestry and wildlife to try to stem the lucrative trade in beasts both dead and alive.

A typical on-line ad says that a chimpanzee comes with "veterinary health documents, a "permit" from CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and a year's health care guarantee."CITES, does not, however, issue such individual "permits."The seller next claims that he lives in the forested region of Kilum and "is incapable of giving Kiki, the chimpanzee in question,a good home.

Laga-Cameroon tries to infiltrate the black market sales networks and carry out investigations in conjunction with the police. They found and partially dismantled eight groups of Internet fraudsters between 2007 and August 2009.

Not all sellers on net were swindlers. Some of the traffickers were genuinely dealing in endangered species, including animal heads and hides for use as trophies.

To reassure clients, the cyber-dealers use a false sales permit, with the forged signature of the wildlife minister. They are able to do this because trading in some protected species is legal under a quota system.

John Sellar, the enforcement assistance chief at CITES in Geneva, said that "the Internet certainly facilitates illegal trade in wildlife, but it is very difficult to assess the scale," in email comments to AFP.

"We are aware of some of the work that has been conducted in places like Cameroon with regard to trade in primates and recognize that the Internet is used to sell live animals," he said. But he said the majority of such offers he has seen "are simply criminal frauds" to scam people out of money, with no intention to supply live animals.

CITES has issued fraud warnings and in general is examining trade that is facilitated by.