Can social media help save endangered species?

on Apr 01 in biology, trends posted by

The BBC News website reports a CITES Convention proposal to limit online trade of endangered species. According to Paul Todd of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Internet is the greatest threat to endangered species. (See BBC report.) 

Over-hunting, pollution, habitat destruction and even climate change are usually cited as the main threats to a species’ existence.

But, according to the BBC article, the speed and anonymity of online commerce has made it easier than ever to engage in illegal trade for endangered species. You know the sort of thing: bears’ gall bladders, tiger bones, rhino horn, and so on.

The question is, can social media be part of the cure rather than the disease? In a guest post on The Pimm Group blog I argue that it can. (Dr. Stuart Pimm is a world-renowned conservation biologist at Duke University in North Carolina.)  

Indeeed, it must! Social media can and should play a crucial role in combating illegal commerce in endangered species.

I propose at least two ways this could happen.

  1. Form an online community (tentatively called SpeciesWatch) that searches for such activity and reports it to authorities.
  2. We can form social network groups to pressure ISPs to block hosting of companies that support ecommerce or auction sites. Such groups can also lobby lawmakers to enforce and toughen up existing rules. 

Of course these ideas are not mutually exclusive. And they may or may not work, but species faced with extinction from these ghoulish peddlers can’t wait. We must act and act now.

Please share your thoughts.

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