Online Illegal Wildlife Trade

An investigation into how online illegal wildlife trade facilitates illicit financial flow

Step 1: Advertising

The first step is placement of an advertisement on an e-commerce website or social media platform. Often, this takes place on the part of the Internet that is completely open and does not require any special kind of software or passwords to access.

Step 2: Building a Community

The second step involves creating a community through forums, closed groups and messenger applications. This is on a part of the Internet that requires ‘special’ access, either by gaining the community’s trust, or through the use of exclusive passwords.

Step 3: Contacting the Seller

The third step is making contact between the seller and the buyer – usually, this is in the form of private or direct messages and can be initiated by either party. Sometimes, the seller will sense interest based on the buyer’s open communications, or the buyer will contact the seller directly to ask for further details about products.

Step 4: Negotiating the sale

The fourth step is the point at which negotiations take place. This will involve discussing cost and logistics, and both parties will decide when and how the products will be delivered, as well as how much the seller is expected to pay. Often, the buyer will ask for the majority of the money before agreeing to send anything.

Step 5: Payment

The fifth step will usually take place through either a secure payment system or in cash. Western Union is a popular method of payment as it is possible to sidestep details such as producing legitimate identification. The seller and buyer will hardly ever meet in person, unless they agree to do so beforehand, at a trade fair or special interest event.

Step 6: Transporting the product

The final step consists of transporting the product. This will usually be through the postal system, or through a courier service. Animal parts and products will often be packed into plastic tuppaware containers and stored in bigger, bulkier boxes, to try and avoid detection.