Best Source for Tiger Bone Wine, Biggest Threat to Endangered Animals: The Internet

The blossoming of trade on the internet was bound to reach into the black market, gray market, and the pink and red market–endangered Mediterranean pink and red coral, I mean.

polar bear


I’m surprised it never occurred to me before, but animal rights groups are taking it upon themselves to make it known that there need to be tougher and more vigilant laws regarding the sale and trade of protected and endangered species over the Internet. The legal route in one case has just been thwarted, but with enough publicity maybe something can be done.

Endangered plants and animals, and products made therefrom, have historically been a small trade, tricky as it is to find both buyers and sellers. But in the global meat-market wild west of the Internet, that’s no longer a problem, and illegal trade of such exotic animals and animal products as polar bears and tiger-bone wine is increasing exponentially with the ease of transaction. The Kaiser’s spotted newt, for example, has an endemic population limited to about a thousand in its native Zagros Mountains in Iran–but for whatever reason, it’s an in-demand pet, and about 200 per year are being illegally sold over the Internet. At that rate, the newt doesn’t have much time left.

This week, a meeting of the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species convened to vote on various measures. The Kaiser’s spotted newt? Saved, as the delegates voted to ban the sale of the rare animal. But red and pink coral, harvested from the deep waters of the Mediterranean, did not gain the same legal protection–it remains legal to buy and sell jewelry made from the corals, which are prized around the world. The delegation decided the trade in coral is too important to some of the poorer fishing communities along the Mediterranean, and the coral as of now is under no official protection.

It’s a difficult and possibly impossible task to patrol the internet for those selling illegal goods–but it’s certainly worth an effort.

[AP, image from Wikimedia Commons]

About the author

Dan Nosowitz is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Popular Science, The Awl, Gizmodo, Fast Company, BuzzFeed, and elsewhere. He holds an undergraduate degree from McGill University and currently lives in Brooklyn, because he has a beard and glasses and that's the law.