South America, Central America and Southeast Asia, and several parts of Africa have been blessed with abundant flora and fauna — so much so that many exotic animals are found in forests in these regions. But why are we talking about exotic animals, and what does illegal wildlife trade on Dark Web?
Back in the early 1900s, fashion flaunted real animal materials like fur, crocodile skin, and chinchilla fur, sparking controversy among people, fashion enthusiasts, and fashion brands. Although some luxury brands abandoned these practices, many persist.
Animal rights groups like PETA rallied designers and celebrities against this trend, significantly reducing animal exploitation. “Animals are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way,” says PETA.
Yet, the dark web remains a hub for trading exotic creatures, sustained by modern technology and hacker communities.
The world of the dark web remains shrouded in mystery and infamy, often associated with illicit activities ranging from drug trafficking to cybercrime. However, a disturbing phenomenon has taken root in the deep dark corners of the dark web – the illegal wildlife trade on Dark Web.
While the internet has become a vast marketplace for legitimate transactions, the dark web has emerged as a platform where these forbidden exchanges thrive, hidden from mainstream visibility and has become a haven for those seeking to profit from the trade of rare and endangered species.
How Exotic Animals Bear the Brunt of Illegal Wildlife Trade on Dark Web
The materialization of the dark web has brought a new level of efficiency and anonymity to illegal trades.
Unlike traditional black markets that rely on personal connections, the dark web provides a virtual haven where individuals can buy and sell exotic animals, drugs, smuggled items, and more while evading the eyes of law enforcement and animal protection services.
This unregulated landscape has facilitated the growth of illegal wildlife trade on Dark Web for those seeking more than just exotic pets.
Recent research by National Geographic has uncovered a myriad of species being traded, including those coveted for their drug properties.
A shocking 90% of the illegal wildlife trade on Dark Web revolves around plants and fungi used for drug consumption.
For instance, the Sonoran desert toad, whose toxic glands contain the psychedelic 5-MeO-DMT, is sought after for its mind-altering effects. The motivations behind illegal wildlife trade on Dark Web are as varied as the species involved – from seeking a high to indulging in exotic culinary experiences.
In a recent study, ecologists from the University of Adelaide meticulously scanned 2 million dark web advertisements spanning six years, revealing a staggering 153 species being traded.
Of these, nearly 70 have known drug properties.
The study highlights the key players in this nefarious trade, including vendors like “ivoryking,” which boasts the most extensive presence on the dark web in relation to the wildlife trade. These findings expose the deep-rooted connections between the dark web and the illegal wildlife trade industry.
The Constant Struggle Against Illegal Wildlife Trade on Dark Web
Efforts to combat the illegal trade of exotic animals have been ongoing for years. However, despite international law enforcement’s best endeavors, the illegal wildlife trade on Dark Web persists due to the inherent anonymity of the network.
In a paradoxical twist, some wildlife poachers have migrated from the shadows of the dark web to openly trading on popular platforms like eBay and Facebook, leveraging their sense of impunity.
The dark web’s illicit wildlife trade thrives on human desire, manifesting in both extravagant fashion
choices and the insatiable urge for psychotropic experiences. While some argue that the trade’s current scale is minor, the potential for growth and its far-reaching implications on biosecurity and biodiversity warrant sustained attention.
The dark web, a subset of the deep web, is a hidden network intentionally concealed from standard search engines.
Accessed through specialized software like Tor (The Onion Router), individuals can enter online domains denoted by addresses concluding with “.onion.” Originally conceived by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory to safeguard communication among government agents, this internet layer swiftly expanded its utility to realms beyond its initial purpose.
One of dark web’s defining features is its emphasis on anonymity.
Tor bounces users’ communications through a network of volunteer-operated servers, making it difficult to trace back to the user. This anonymity extends to website operators, providing a cloak for illegal activities such as the wildlife trade.
The Ecology of Dark Web Transactions
Darknet markets, the digital counterparts of physical black markets, operate on the dark web. These markets offer a range of illicit goods and services, all accessible with the help of specialized software. Transactions within these markets are anonymized, leveraging cryptocurrency transactions to ensure buyers’ and sellers’ privacy and security.
The transaction process typically involves the use of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which offers a degree of anonymity due to its decentralized nature. Dark wallets are used to protect the identities of parties involved in the transaction.
The marketplace operator often holds the payment in escrow to deter potential scammers. The only vulnerable link in this chain is the actual delivery of goods, which is carried out through postal systems.
The history of the dark web’s illicit trade can be traced back to one of the most infamous platforms: the Silk Road.
Launched in 2011 by Ross Ulbricht, Silk Road was the pioneering darknet marketplace that revolutionized the concept of online black markets.
It operated as a platform for anonymous buyers and sellers to trade various goods, particularly drugs. The site’s use of Bitcoin for transactions and its sophisticated privacy measures made it a breeding ground for illegal activities.
Silk Road’s prominence was short-lived, as law enforcement agencies worldwide intensified their efforts to shut down the site. In 2013, Ross Ulbricht was arrested, and the original Silk Road was seized and closed.
However, Silk Road’s legacy lives on in the proliferation of subsequent darknet markets that have filled the void left by its demise.
The Ongoing Battle Against Wildlife Trafficking
Efforts to combat the illegal wildlife trade on Dark Web have spanned decades, involving international organizations, law enforcement agencies, and conservation groups. Despite these collective endeavors, the allure of financial gain and the perceived impunity of the dark web has allowed the wildlife trade to persist.
One of the challenges in curbing the dark web wildlife trade lies in the very nature of the network itself. The anonymity provided by the dark web’s encrypted communication and decentralized infrastructure makes it difficult for authorities to trace the identities of those involved.
Consequently, law enforcement agencies face an uphill battle as they strive to identify, apprehend, and prosecute individuals engaged in this illegal activity.
The dark web’s role in facilitating the illegal trade of wild and exotic animals has far-reaching consequences for global conservation efforts and biodiversity.
The rampant exploitation of endangered species threatens delicate ecosystems and disrupts natural balance. Additionally, using rare species for drug consumption or other purposes can drive these creatures towards extinction.
Conservationists and researchers emphasize the urgent need for stricter regulation and law enforcement to counteract the dark web’s impact on wildlife trafficking.
International collaboration is vital to address this transnational issue effectively. However, achieving this is no small feat, given the challenges posed by the dark web’s inherent anonymity and the ever-evolving tactics used by those involved in the trade.
The dark web’s role in facilitating the illegal trade of wild and exotic animals paints a grim picture of humanity’s darker inclinations. Driven by greed, curiosity, and a desire for altered experiences, individuals exploit the anonymity and secrecy offered by the dark web to profit from the suffering of life forms.
While efforts to combat this issue persist, the resilient nature of the dark web and the lucrative incentives involved pose significant challenges.
As the world grapples with the complexities of technological advancements and ethical considerations, it becomes increasingly clear that a multidimensional approach is necessary to combat the illegal wildlife trade on Dark Web.
Stricter regulations, international cooperation, and innovative technological solutions are vital to ensure a brighter future for both the species that inhabit our planet and the ecosystems that sustain us all.
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