The Internet has become one of the biggest threats to at-risk species, allowing hunters to offload everything from polar bear pelts to extremely rare Iranian salamanders with ease, conservationists told the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Qatar. Thousands of endangered species are regularly traded online through message boards, auction sites, and chatrooms, the BBC reports, with buyers enjoying both the anonymity it offers and the global network of potential buyers.
“The Internet is becoming the dominant factor overall in the global trade in protected species,” said one animal welfare representative. It’s almost impossible to gauge the exact size of the problem, but those trying to police illegal sales say the US is the biggest market, though Europe, China, Russia, and Australia all take part as well. (Read more endangered species stories.)