In Plain Sight: Wildlife Trafficking on the World’s Most Used Social Media Platform

(c) Blake Meyer,

To read the WWF’s 2021 report, click here.

To access my source materials, please click here and here.

To access a vital (yet heartbreaking) book on the subject, click here.

…wild fauna and flora in their many beautiful and varied forms are an irreplaceable part of the natural systems of the earth which must be protected for this and the generations to come.

Opening of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Treaty

In the 1990 movie, The Freshman, Matthew Broderick plays a college student who unknowingly becomes involved in a Mafia run dinner club which serves illegally trafficked endangered species to its wealthy patrons. He’s asked to transport a Komodo Dragon for this reason and the movie’s dark humor is a spoof of the Godfather movies. By the end, his character discovers that the animals weren’t harmed at all- the club served common fish and turkey to its guests as part of an elaborate con job and he returns to his normal life, relieved that the Komodo Dragon will live out the rest of its days at the newly formed endangered species wing of the Bronx Zoo.

If only the animals that are routinely trafficked in plain sight on social media were that lucky! Sadly, though on April 7th, Gavin Butler of Vice World News published an article outlining the relative ease with which his investigative team could have purchased a tiger – six private messages and less than 24 hours after first contacting a Burmese language Facebook page, his team could have paid $29,000.00 for a young cub. It gets worse from there. It only took three days to arrange the following “transactions”:

1 Asiatic black bear (moon bears) – $1,000.00

2 leopard cubs – $280.00 for both

1 wolf – $67.00

1 slow loris – $45.00

The World Wildlife Fund reported in 2021 the number of wildlife items for sale on Facebook skyrocketed by 74% (this included parts such as claws and teeth, and products made from those parts), while the number of identified traders rose by 69%. Among these trafficked species are the pangolin, a reclusive animal that is poached for use of its scales in traditional medicines. The moon bear is poached for its bile – which is believed to be a cure for Covid – and the harvesting can take place while the bear is still alive, though many are slaughtered for their gallbladders. Most of the animals which are trafficked don’t exist outside of southeast Asia, and therefore have small populations to begin with, which makes it even more critical that we stop this brutal “in plain sight” practice.

What’s worse, in 2018, Facebook joined the Coalition To End Wildlife Trafficking Online which had a stated goal of reducing global online trafficking by 80% by the year 2020. Sadly, by October, 2020, the Alliance To Counter Crime Online reported that trafficking on Facebook had actually significantly increased since 2018. Facebook’s response to the whistleblowers? They began posting the following in English as a response to certain search terms:

Animal abuse and the sale of endangered animals or their parts is not allowed on Facebook.

There is no such warning on the Burmese language pages, and if you use that language to search for endangered species, you’ll be directed to many open groups that traffic wildlife. This disgusting and flagrant abuse is why I ask you to help me act as a voice for the voiceless. Please sign my petition at and pass it on to others. Facebook cannot continue to exploit helpless, innocent animals if enough of us speak out against the barbaric exploitation.