Across the world the illegal wildlife trade is booming, and enormous, irreparable damage to biodiversity is occurring.

Every day hundreds of thousands of endangered and legally protected plants, insects and animals are traded to consumers interested in their medical, ornamental, cultural properties, or to keep them as live pets or plants.

Globalisation and development, in tandem with a growing global population, have led to greater and greater impacts on the natural world as increasingly affluent populations and globally marketed trends have led to huge surges in demand for certain products.

The marketplaces for illegal wildlife products are increasingly virtual. The internet facilitates communication across borders, and provides greater anonymity to illegal traders.

It is important to understand, expose and isolate the most strategic areas for intervention.

That’s why Global Initiative’s new project on online Illicit Wildlife Trade “Digital Dangers” is going to address the issues raised by online IWT in three areas:

1 - Known knowns

Most of what we know about online IWT is what we struggle with and we will be tackling these problems with problem-framing briefs that sketch out an agenda for action

2 - Known unknowns

We also know what we need to understand better: the market dynamics of illicit trades, including better information about where marketing and sales takes place, who is involved in transactions, and what role they play in the IWT value chain. We will be doing original research drawing on cutting-edge tech-enabled data analytics on the open web and qualitative research on the trade in specific reptile, bird and flora species in three regions.

3 - Unknown unknowns

We need to develop predictive knowledge the way IWT operates online as new technologies and opportunities become available to traders or as enforcement efforts provide force them to innovate and adapt.

Digital Dangers forms part of a broader project on online environmental crime markets. This project draws together multilateral organisations and civil society, encompassing UNODC, INTERPOL and the Global Initiative in a strategic arrangement that enables each partner to play to their mandate and institutional strengths.

Our goal is to achieve a measurable reduction in environmental crime through the disruption of web based markets and illicit financial flows associated with these markets.

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