The News Today
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5.28.20
Alternative Ivory

Traffickers Are Using Facebook to Sell Endangered Bird Skulls

August 28th 19__Dan Robitzski__Filed Under: Hard Science
Citron/Victor Tangermann

Skull Swapping

Over the last six months, hundreds of skulls and other parts of endangered birds have gone up for sale in Thai-speaking Facebook groups.

Skulls and bills of the endangered Helmeted Hornbill, which collectors covet for its unusual, ornamental shape, made up 83 percent of the 546 items for sale identified by a wildlife trafficking organization called TRAFFIC in a new report published on Monday. While Gizmodo reports that most of the Facebook groups on which people were hawking pieces of endangered birds have been shut down, the trade will likely pop up again elsewhere, due to the difficulties of monitoring the illegal practice.

Whack-A-Mole

Demand for the Helmeted Hornbill has risen as buyers interested in the unusual, decorative heads sought an alternative to elephant ivory, according to a TRAFFIC press release about the report. And while deleting Facebook groups, banning accounts, and otherwise deplatforming the poachers and smugglers behind the trade helps for a while, a stronger approach will be necessary to actually stamp out the trade.

Specifically, TRAFFIC calls for national governments, Facebook, and other organizations to monitor the internet more closely to better nip these illegal marketplaces in the bud — hopefully to the point that killing and trading the endangered birds is no longer worth it.

READ MORE: New Survey Finds Hundreds of Endangered Bird Parts for Sale on Facebook [Gizmodo]

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