Facebook is turning into an online market place for wildlife in Malaysia. Environmentalists expressed their concern over the trade in endangered species.

The wildlife monitoring network TRAFFIC found that Facebook groups in Malaysia have hundreds of protected animals for sale. The researchers monitored 14 Facebook groups for half an hour daily over five months and found around 300 wild, live animals for sale as pet.  The animals ranged from sun bears, gibbons and binturongs (bearcats).

Most of these groups are closed groups.  The groups boasted of around 68,000 active members. Out of which 106 were identified as unique sellers. Surprisingly, they showed little effort to conceal their illegal trade.

It was unexpected as this trade was undocumented before and the country did not have open wildlife markets like in some other countries of Southeast Asia. The level of domestic trade was most surprising in this regard as 60 percent of the 80 species recorded during the monitoring is native to Malaysia.

Besides, most of these animals were protected from hunting or trade and illegal to sell under the Wildlife Conservation Act of 2010.This reflected the demand of the country’s wildlife in the trade.

Kanitha Krishnasamy, Programme Manager for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia said, “The rise of social media appears to have enabled the creation of a thriving marketplace for wild animals as pets where one previously didn’t exist in Malaysia.”

TRAFFIC shared its finding with Peninsular Malaysia’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN).

Hasnan Yusop, PERHILITAN’s Director of Enforcement. Said, “We recognize the scale of this problem as we have been monitoring over 30 Facebook Groups selling wildlife since 2013.”

He further stated, “PERHILITAN has taken measures to address the problem, including working with other law enforcement agencies to stop the illegal trade of wildlife on Facebook.”

According to BBC, the investigators are concerned that anyone with access to smartphone  can contact with huge number of potential buyers through social media.

Although, this trade is new to Malaysia, some other countries of Asia has witnessed the adverse effects of social media specially in illegal trades of endangered species.  Japan is one such country. Recently, Yahoo Japan confirmed that it would strengthen its policies to prevent illegal trades of ivory products. The country also faced risk of illegal trade of endangered slow lorises.