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Lend your eyes and ears to wildlife

WWF’s ‘Eyes and Ears’ initiative encourages the public to report anything they have seen or heard that may be linked to illegal wildlife trade across the world. All information received is passed on, in confidence, to our wildlife trade specialist colleagues at TRAFFIC for assessment and appropriate follow-up. This includes liaising with CITES authorities and other relevant in-country organisations.

From July 2015 – June 2016, 45 reports were received from the public. One third of these involved suspected illegal trade in the UK, highlighting that this is an issue that affects us at home as well as abroad. 50% of the reports raised concerns over online sales of wildlife, demonstrating the growing role of the internet for selling threatened wildlife products.

The reports of suspicious activity come from all over the world, ranging from the sale of baby orang-utans in Indonesia; marmoset and capuchin monkeys for sale on a website in the UK; ivory for sale in Morocco; and a rhino head reported in the boot of a car in London. Below we’ve taken a more detailed look at some of these recent cases, to show how public reports can make a difference.

Primates and felines for sale in Kuwait

In July 2015, a member of the public reported seeing various threatened species, including orang-utans, gibbons and clouded leopards for sale in a pet shop in Kuwait. Photos from the shop’s online site were passed on to the Kuwaiti CITES Management Authority, who responded that legal action was already being taken against the company in cooperation with the Environmental Police. Further information received a few months later highlighted that several illegal wildlife trade cases were being taken to court and that due to increased checks and confiscations, the problem appears to have reduced.

Marmoset monkeys in South Africa

A private breeder of marmoset monkeys in South Africa reported the owner of a wildlife park over suspicions of illegal trading activity. The owner of the South African wildlife park had requested to purchase many pairs of marmoset monkeys for her zoo, however it was believed that she then sells and exports them illegally. Various evidence including images and ‘WhatsApp’ messages were compiled and sent to the South African authorities.

Further investigation using TRAFFIC’s database revealed previous concerns over the wildlife park. This included the reported sale of marmosets and squirrel monkeys to a Thai citizen for a bird park in Bangkok without a verifiable address, along with reported links to illegal rhino horn trade. By inputting all wildlife trade reports into TRAFFIC’s database, this enables connections to be made between cases and provides an evidence base for future investigation by the authorities.

WWF’s Eyes and Ears initiative has been running for over 20 years and has led to several successful investigations for wildlife crime offences. The public’s alertness is a key tool in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade – new information can lead investigators to criminal gangs or illegal dealers.

Find out more about WWF’s ‘Eyes and Ears’ initiative and how to report suspected illegal wildlife trade in the UK and overseas.