Is rare wildlife traded on the darknet?

February 29, 2016

Unlike illicit trade in drugs, guns or pornography, illicit trade in rare wildlife doesn't have to hide on the 'darknet' because people can find whatever rare species they want in the open marketplace.

The so-called darknet is not required for trade in species such as rhino or elephant, because laws protecting online are so poorly enforced, research by the University of Kent suggests.

In an article entitled Assessing the extent and nature of wildlife trade on the darknet, published in Conservation Biology, the lack of darknet markets was compared to the burgeoning trade on the open web, which researchers say indicates a lack of successful enforcement there.

The research collaboration between Dr David Roberts of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), School of Anthropology and Conservation, and Dr Julio Hernandes-Castro and Joseph Harrison, PhD student, of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Cyber Security Research within the University's School of Computing, provides a first baseline for further research.

The is facilitated by the global reach of the Internet that allows billions of transactions to take place every day without even the need for anonymity given the apparent low level of enforcement.

Growing concern has led to calls for bans, such as eBay's ban on ivory. However, this has led to fears the trade could move to the darknet where illegal activity is possible without the trader's true identity being revealed, as happened with drugs, firearms and pornography.

The research carried out is the first survey of wildlife trade on the anonymous networks that hide the location and identity of users. It adds a valuable contribution to the knowledge of internet wildlife trade by showing there is a negligible amount of trade on the darknet.

Explore further: Large-scale illegal trade in hundreds of wild-collected ornamental plants in Southeast Asia

More information: Joseph R. Harrison et al. Assessing the extent and nature of wildlife trade on the darkweb, Conservation Biology (2016). DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12707

Related Stories

Enforcement and anti-poaching measures set to fail

January 13, 2014

In a paper published in Conservation Letters, researchers from the University of Kent's Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) argue that despite record levels of funding being invested in enforcement and anti-poaching ...

Recommended for you

Giant thai insect reveals clues to human heart disease

September 30, 2016

What can a Thai water bug teach us about our muscles, especially the heart? A lot, says Professor of Biological Science Kenneth Taylor. New research by Taylor published today in Science Advances gives scientists better insight ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.