Wildlife traffickers have set up profiles for fake petting zoos on Facebook to openly sell scales of the critically endangered pangolins.
Tech Transparency Project (TTP), an information and research hub, recently published an investigation on the wildlife on Wednesday.
They found half a dozen public posts selling pangolin scales by searching for the animal, which was written in Vietnamese. Many of the pages they found offered pangolin scales, which are used in several parts of Asian countries as a traditional Chinese medicine.
“The pangolin is the world’s most trafficked animal,” Daniel Stevens, TTP executive director, told Buzzfeed News in an interview. “And it’s still easy to find these animals to buy on Facebook.”
Buzzfeed News found out that traffickers created the pages and listed its profiles as a zoo or animal rescue service even though the page titles were “Pangolin Scales for Sale in Vietnam” and “Rhino Horns and Pangolin Scales for Sale in China.”
“We discretely hunt and sell Rhino Horn and pangolin scales contact us for more information on purchase, WhatsApp me,” one page wrote.
TTP reported two of the pages and were taken down Facebook after Buzzfeed News contacted the platform for comment.
“We prohibit the trading of endangered wildlife or their parts,” a spokesperson for Facebook told Buzzfeed News. “It’s illegal, it’s wrong, and we have teams devoted to stopping [activities] like this.”
Sarah Uhlemann, international program director and senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, told Buzzfeed News that the sellers are probably connected to a larger network of traffickers that sell African pangolins from countries like Nigeria to Vietnam and then to China.
The demand for the animals has not decreased despite it being labeled endangered or critically endangered around the world. Since 2014, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported that illegally hunted pangolins from Africa have increased tenfold.
“One operation last April seized 25 tons of African pangolin scales – representing an estimated 50,000 dead pangolins – with a market value of some $7 million,” Ghada Waly, UN office’s executive director, said in the report. “Between 2014 and 2018, the equivalent of 370,000 pangolins were seized globally.”