10 July 2018 | TRAFFIC International News Release
Hanoi, Viet Nam — A study released today by TRAFFIC suggests that most of Viet Nam’s online illegal wildlife trade does not take place on websites ending in .vn, as previously thought and instead monitoring efforts should focus on those ending .com, including social media websites.
The study, titled Viet Nam Online: A rapid assessment of e-commerce wildlife trade in Viet Nam in 2017, monitored 13 websites ending in .vn using keyword searches for products ranging from elephants, leopards, pangolins, rhinos, Saiga Antelopes, marine turtles, and tigers. Of the websites surveyed, 30% were found to have advertisements for the targeted wildlife species parts.
A total of 14 such advertisements in all offered 1,072 selected wildlife products, 90% of them in just one advertisement over the period of March–October 2017. All but six of the advertised products were made from elephant ivory, with the remainder coming from tigers.
This is in contrast to similar surveys previously conducted of Viet Nam’s online wildlife trade that have included .com domain names, including social media websites, that discovered many more advertisements for wildlife products. They include a 2017 TRAFFIC survey that found 1,095 tiger products offered for sale in 187 advertisements from 85 unique sellers on four e-commerce websites and two social media websites over a period of 25 days. The majority of the advertisements (95%) were found on a single social media site. The same site also accounted for 89% of the individual items (excluding items measured by weight).
Online trade in Viet Nam is regulated by Law No 51/2005/QH11 on Electronic Transactions and Decree 52/2013/ND-CP on e-commerce, which prohibits the online trade of certain goods, including wildlife where applicable. People who break this law may be punished with the same severity as those that sell illegal wildlife products in a physical marketplace. However, collecting evidence and prosecuting online crime can be very difficult.
Online marketplaces have become attractive to traffickers because they offer anonymity and allow people to connect over large distances more easily than ever before
Rosa A. Indenbaum, a Senior Programme Officer with TRAFFIC based in Viet Nam and author of the report
“Defeating online trade will require diligence, both from enforcement officers and website companies. This study indicates that, at the moment,.com sites, including social media, are where monitoring and enforcement efforts should be concentrated.”
The report recommends the Vietnamese government adapt and apply the existing framework to ensure effective law enforcement across online channels. Likewise, the government is encouraged to form a specialised team to focus on online monitoring of wildlife trade. The study also urges law enforcement personnel and members of the public to report online wildlife crime. This can be done using the Wildlife Witness mobile application, Viet Nam’s Environmental Police Online Reporting Platform, or through Education for Nature-Vietnam’s hotline (18001522).
Viet Nam Online: A rapid assessment of e-commerce wildlife trade in Viet Nam in 2017 was funded by the UK Government through the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund.
TRAFFIC is at the forefront of addressing illegal wildlife trade online. In 2018, the organisation helped convene the Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online with some of the world’s biggest internet companies. In Viet Nam, TRAFFIC has been supporting the Vietnam E-commerce Association in its efforts to disrupt illegal online trade through workshops and training events.