Wildlife trafficking on Facebook took a hit last week, with  Agence France-Press (AFP) reporting that five men were arrested in Indonesia in connection with selling Komodo dragons and other wild animals through Facebook

According to AFP:

The vast Southeast Asian archipelago nation’s dense tropical rainforests boast some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world and it has for years been a key source and transit point for animal trafficking.

East Java police said they arrested the suspects on Java island for allegedly trafficking the large lizard, as well as bearcats, cockatoos and cassowary birds. The Komodo dragons can be sold for $1,000 to $1,400 each, they told AFP.  

The wildlife black market on Facebook has been targeted by activists, law enforcement and conservationists who see it as a major factor in the trafficking of both live animals and animal parts. A headline in last summer’s Wired Magazine story read: “How Facebook Groups Became A Bizarre Bazaar For Elephant Tusks.” According to the story:

On Facebook, wildlife traffickers can speedily connect with buyers across the globe, fast-tracking illegal, unregulated deals from within the semiprivate world of groups. 

The story talks about the effort by the National WhistleBlower Center (NWC) to target Facebook through a suit filed by an anonymous whistleblower with the Securities and Exchange Commission. It charges that the company is not fully   disclosing the company’s potential liability for wildlife crime to its shareholders. The suit also claims that Facebook is profiting from ads on the trafficking site.

The case emerged from NWS’s Wildlife Whistleblower programs, which seek to leverage U.S. laws to fight wildlife crime worldwide. A BBC story on the suit quotes a spokeswoman for Facebook saying that the company is working to stop the trafficking, does not allow the sale of endangered species, and removes postings “as soon as we are aware of it.”

The NWS wants Facebook to do more. In an October letter to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, the National Whistleblower Center staff urged the company to work with the Department of Justice by sharing basic information about illegal wildlife trafficking occurring on the site.

“The electronic footprints left behind by traffickers and buyers contain every conceivable type of evidence that would aid investigatory efforts, from proof of individual transactions, to the physical locations of the largest online sellers. This kind of data is the most invaluable tool that law enforcement can obtain in any type of criminal investigation.”

In the meantime, the issue made The New York Time Travel section this weekend in a story entitled “Vietnam’s Empty Forests.”

The corruption that afflicts Vietnam’s one-party government, along with the growing economy, are major factors in the disappearance of natural habitat and endangered species. Corruption was given as a major reason for weak protections and slack enforcement by the conservation groups we spoke with.

A 2017 study found 1,521 live animals for sale online on 12 Facebook groups in nearby Thailand. Memberships in the group reached 203,445 by 2018 according to TRAFFIC, a wildlife advocacy group.