for National Geographic News
Authorities in China recently launched a crackdown on Web sites that openly trade in animal products made from threatened species, experts say.
The move follows pressure from two international wildlife advocacy groups, which found thousands of items made from protected species for sale on major Chinese Internet auction sites in 2007.
As a result of the investigation, Chinese officials have already shut down several online auctions selling banned goods, said Grace Gabriel, Asia regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), who is based in Beijing.
"There has been progress in identifying auctions selling illegal products," she said.
"But Chinese authorities still need a lot of help with enforcement."
(Related news: "Wildlife Trade Booming in Burmese Casino Town" [February 28, 2008].)
Thousands of Ads
IFAW and TRAFFIC, the international wildlife-trade monitoring network, conducted two recent studies of China's Internet auctions that led to this year's crackdown.
Between February and December 2007, IFAW found sites selling 1,973 items from 30 species protected by Chinese environmental law and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
China has been a member of CITES, an international treaty that regulates trade in protected species, since 1981.
TRAFFIC published a similar study in July 2007 that found 4,291 advertisements for illegal wildlife products on auction sites serving mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan over an eight-month period.
Porter Erisman is a spokesperson for Alibaba, an e-commerce company and Yahoo partner that owns the Chinese auction site Taobao, which saw some of its bids shuttered by the Chinese government.
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