Wildlife trade on e-commerce sites in China, with a focus on mammoth ivory: A Rapid Assessment

In August 2020, the Wildlife Justice Commission commenced four months of research to assess the levels of illegal wildlife trade on Chinese e-commerce platforms and to determine whether any links to organised wildlife crime could be established associated with this activity.

The research identified a total of 4,297 advertisements pertaining to the sale of wildlife, parts, products, or derivatives relating to 35 different species of fauna and flora. These advertisements were identified on seven different e-commerce sites in China, with 1688.com accounting for the greatest proportion (3693 / 86%), followed by Taoboa (318 / 7%) and Tmall (125 / 3%). All three of these platforms are owned by the Alibaba group.

We have been able to complete this report with the generous support of Peace Parks Foundation.

Of those 4,297 advertisements, 637 (15%) were identified as referring to the sale of ‘Protected’ species, while at least 3,657 (85%) of the identified advertisements were classified as pertaining to species which are ‘Not Protected’ in China; meaning that the majority of the wildlife trade found during the research period on Chinese e-commerce platforms com is legally permitted according to China’s Wildlife Protection Law.

The objective was to gain an increased understanding of the role of e-commerce platforms in facilitating the illegal sale of wildlife products in China and to determine if criminal networks use these platforms to sell illegal wildlife products either within China or to supply products outside of China.

Wildlife Justice Commission

The Wildlife Justice Commission is concerned by the sheer amount of mammoth ivory products documented for sale. Ivory products remain in high demand, and mammoth ivory can perpetuate the demand for elephant ivory. Recent reports from Japan suggest that elephant ivory is being mislabelled and sold as mammoth ivory.

Support from Peace Parks Foundation

We are incredibly grateful for the generous support provided by Peace Parks Foundation for this research. Since our start in 2015, the Peace Parks Foundation has been a longstanding partner in the  fight against wildlife crime.

“Wildlife crime poses a serious threat to the vast areas of African wilderness that Peace Parks Foundation works to protect, not only destroying biodiversity, but also diminishing livelihoods and destabilising the sustainability of these protected areas. We are committed to developing well-considered methods through wich to address issues at various critical points along this so-called ‘crime supply chain’. As a co-founder of the Wildlife Justice Commission, we are therefore pleased to offer continued support to their invaluable research that informs effective strategies to combat the illegal trade of environmental products, thereby helping to secure those natural resources required to sustain life on earth”.

Werner Myburgh, Chief Executive Officer, Peace Parks Foundation