Hanoi, 17th November. At the Hanoi Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, the local organisation WildAct announced the results of their online market survey, focusing on Facebook in Vietnam. Products from protected species, such as tiger, rhino, elephant and pangolin are openly for sale on this number one social media platform in Vietnam.
The rapid spread of Internet use underpins a potential threat to endangered wildlife impacted by trade and demand for their products. The number of Internet users in Vietnam is approximately 50 million, while Internet shopping, including for certain wildlife products, is likewise growing year on year. Previous research showed that a wild array of endangered species and wildlife products were being sold in several Vietnamese online platforms, such as website, Facebook page and forum.
It has been reported that Facebook has 30 million monthly active users in Vietnam. WildAct conducted their survey focusing on Facebook during a 6-month period, from October 2015 – April 2016. Almost 2000 adverts and 3000 comments were analysed.
Research found that products of endangered and critically endangered species listed under the IUCN Redlist, such as rhino horn, pangolin scale, elephant ivory, bear bile and gallbladder, and Big Cat species (including tiger, leopard and clouded leopard) were advertised openly on Facebook. 38% of all advertisements found were elephant ivory products, whereas one out of every four account created primarily to sell elephant ivory also selling rhino horn.
Tiger bone, skin, teeth and claws were also advertised, together with clouded leopard, leopard and bears. It is important to note that 88% of the people who commented on these advertisements expressed an interest in purchasing advertised products, most of them are men aged from 25 – 40.
Trang Nguyen – WildAct founder and executive director said: "Two years ago I was working in collaboration with WildCRU – Wildlife Conservation Research Unit in Oxford, England and Fauna and Flora International Vietnam to put out camera traps across Vietnam, looking for the clouded leopard. After months of surveying, we didn't get any picture at all. Now I went on Facebook and I found their parts on sale".
Commenting on the selling of bear parts, such as gall, bile and paws, Brian Crudge – Research programme manager, Free the Bears said "Given that the rapid decline in the number of bears kept on farms in Vietnam, it is not surprising that bear products were found traded online. This highlights the on-going demand for bear parts in Vietnam and the continued threat to wild bears throughout the region".
"We need to recognise that online trade of endangered species is a significant component of illegal wildlife trade and its in contravention of Vietnamese legislation and should be dealt with accordingly" – she added – "We urge Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to take immediate action and collaborate with the Vietnamese government as well as NGOs working in Vietnam to tackle this illegal trade of wildlife".
The conference attracted leaders and senior officers from all around the world to work together to tackle the illegal trade of wildlife. This morning, the Duke of Cambridge also paid a visit to emphasis the important of shutting down the trade.