Dissatisfied with the suo motu (own) measures taken by online marketplaces to prevent the illegal trade of endangered animals on their platforms, India’s environment minister Anil Madhav Dave announced in parliament his ministry will hire cyber crime specialists to monitor online ads of wildlife items.

Illegal wildlife trade is rampant in India. In May, India’s director general of foreign trade (DG) reminded the country’s two biggest horizontal classifieds platforms – OLX and Quikr – that dogs may not be imported for breeding, and asked the sites to stop accepting listings for dogs (our report here).

This month, India’s Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) compiled a list of 106 sites being used for such illegal trade. Besides e-commerce sites, such as Amazon, EBay, and Alibaba, the WCCB report tabled in the Indian parliament, also listed OLX, Snapdeal, Quikr, Petsmart and Rediff.

According to the Times of India, wildlife traffickers often use code words to sell endangered animals. Koalas, for example, are often illegally sold under the code “Australian teddy bear”, while “dhaariwala chaddar” (striped sheet) is code for tiger skin.

When contacted by AIM Group, OLX issued the following statement: “At OLX we take several steps to ensure that protected animals and birds are not put up for sale by the users.

“The sale of animals which are not allowed to be traded in accordance with the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 is specifically prohibited. We regularly take steps to strengthen our technical filters to prevent such ads from going live on our platform.

“In addition to this, and more importantly, we have also started working with WCCB to make our platform more secure.

“We also extended our support to WCCB by highlighting any suspicious user activity on our platform. We also consistently extend our support to other law enforcement agencies who seek our help in such matters,” said an OLX spokesperson.

In May this year, Amazon India reportedly pulled down 400 wildlife items illegally listed on the site, following an initiative of Wildlife SOS, a wildlife rescue and conservation organization based in India.

Among the removed for-sale ads were alligator heads, preserved snakes, protected species of starfish, rare butterflies and beetles, wallets made of stingray skin, and hunting devices, such as snares.

“In May this year, Amazon India took down 296 items from the category animal specimen, and 104 items from the category snares or traps, listed by third-party sellers, after Wildlife SOS (online petition) drew our attention to them,” an Amazon India spokesperson told the Economic Times.

“We have since engaged with the government and provided our utmost support to help monitor the situation.”

“We work closely with WCCB, which provided an updated list of banned products in June this year, to help us detect attempts by sellers to list such products on online marketplaces,” a spokesperson for Snapdeal told the Economic Times.

Atul Tewari, COO of Quikr, said the company has a system to filter words that violate its listing policy. “When we find a fraudulent listing, we delete it, and block the user from accessing the site,” Tewari said in a statement to the press.

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