Prevalence of illegal turtle trade on social media and implications for wildlife trade monitoring

Yik-Hei SUNG, Wing-Ho LEE, Franco Ka-Wah LEUNG, Jonathan J. FONG

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The internet has emerged as a popular conduit for wildlife trade. To strategize market monitoring, we need to compare the scale of trade and seller structure on internet platforms and physical markets. We simultaneously monitored the turtle trade on two internet platforms (social media, internet forum) and the largest Hong Kong pet market for 12 months. We found that the scale of trade was greatest on social media, with the highest numbers of species (all, potentially illegal, CITES-listed and threatened species) and sellers. The high number of sellers offering potentially illegal and CITES-listed species suggests that the lower barrier to start an online business allows amateur sellers to participate in illegal trade. To curb the trade of turtles and other heavily traded wildlife, it is urgent to scale up and strategize monitoring efforts to regulate online trade. To do so, we recommend: (1) prioritizing online platforms with occasional surveys of physical markets, (2) employing adaptive monitoring efforts (shifting to emerging platforms) and (3) collaborating with social media companies to enforce existing policies prohibiting animal trade.
Original languageEnglish
Article number109245
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Conservation
Early online date20 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong ( RP01.1718 ). We thank David Dudgeon and Timothy Bonebrake for comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • internet
  • Chelonian
  • Conservation
  • Marketing monitoring
  • Online trade
  • Pet market
  • Reptile
  • Wildlife Trade


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