for National Geographic News
Purebred pets often come with a hefty price tag, but the value skyrockets when the animal for sale is an endangered species.
Now, the Internet has opened up a bustling venue for illegal trade in live gorillas, baboons, and other protected species, according to a new report.
The report, released last week by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), revealed that thousands of wild animals and animal partsfrom live chimpanzees to whole elephant tusksare illegally offered for sale online every day.
The result is a cyber black market where the future of the world's rarest animals is being traded away, said Phyllis Campbell-McRae, director of IFAW in the United Kingdom.
Poachers specifically target many wild animals to meet the demands of wealthy consumers in foreign countries or to be sold as pets, she says.
"Each one of us has a responsibility to stop buying and selling wild animals and wildlife products," Campbell-McRae said. "Trade in wildlife is driven by consumer demand. So when the buying stops, the killing will too."
During a one-week period in January the IFWA discovered unlawful offerings such as a gorilla on sale for $8,100 (U.S.) and chimps dressed as dolls for $60,000 (U.S.) each.
The conservation nonprofit says the findings represent only a small fraction of the total online trade, because the investigation only looked at sales of live primates and products made from elephants, tortoise shells, reptiles, and wild cats.
Several Web sites and one print publication, all of which run classified advertisments listing live wild animals for sale, either declined or did not respond to an interview request.
Not all buyers and sellers knowingly break the law.
IFAW's investigation found that information posted on sellers' Web sites regarding wildlife trade restrictions is either nonexistent or inadequate.
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