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Delegates focus on Internet’s role in species’ demise

DOHA, Qatar – The Internet has emerged as one of the greatest threats to rare species, fueling the illegal wildlife trade and making it easier to buy everything from live baby lions to wine made from tiger bones, conservationists and law enforcement officers said Sunday.

The Web’s impact was made clear at the meeting of the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES. Delegates voted overwhelmingly Sunday to ban the trade of the Kaiser’s spotted newt, which the World Wildlife Fund says has been devastated by Internet trade.

A proposal from the United States and Sweden to regulate the trade in red and pink coral – which is crafted into expensive jewelry and sold extensively on the Web – was defeated. Delegates voted the idea down mostly over concerns the increased regulations might impact poor fishing communities.

A three-month survey conducted by the International Fund for Animal Welfare in 2008 found more than 7,000 species worth $3.8 million sold on auction sites, classified ads and chat rooms, mostly in the United States but also Europe, China, Russia and Australia. The group found sales of African ivory, exotic birds, tiger-bone wine and pelts from protected species like polar bears and leopards.

A 2009 survey by Campaign Against the Cruelty to Animals targeted the Internet trade in Ecuador, finding offers to sell live capuchin monkeys, lion cubs and ocelots.

“As the Internet knows no borders, it causes several new problems regarding the enforcement of the protection of endangered species,” the group said in its report.


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