Salamander can Shine Spotlight on Wildlife Trade and the Internet

Salamander can Shine Spotlight on Wildlife Trade and the Internet (Inaugural Zoo Peeps Post)

By Laurel A. Neme, PhD

As delegates to the CITES Conference of Parties meeting in Doha, Qatar this month consider whether or not to list the Kaiser’s spotted newt (Neurergus kaiseri) under Appendix I, they will also highlight the role of e-commerce in promoting trade of rare wildlife species and the desperate need to examine how to police the Internet more effectively.

The Kaiser’s spotted newt is a rare salamander endemic to four streams in the southern part of Iran’s Zagros Mountains.  Thought to number less than 1,000 mature individuals in the wild, the species is highly sought after as pets by collectors, particularly in Europe and Japan.  In Iran, this newt is considered an endangered species and collecting them requires a permit.  In the international arena, however, it is not yet protected.

Populations of Kaiser’s spotted newt have plummeted quickly and dramatically, by 80 percent over recent years, largely due to the apparent ability of sellers to tap a global market through e-commerce.  A 2006 report by TRAFFIC notes ten websites selling the animal, and a CITES document (CoP15 Prop. 14) relates how one Ukranian company, reputedly at the center of international distribution, reported selling 200 wild-caught newts in 2005, and boasted that it would have another 250 of the animals available in January 2006.

While online marketing is a common method to connect sellers of rare animals and animal products with buyers, authorities struggle with how to police it.  The 2008 prohibition by EBay, the well-known auction site, that prevents listing elephant ivory as an item available for sale is one method that helps reduce the trade.  But what of items not listed on the auction site?  When sellers are dispersed, policing them becomes a far more challenging issue. As CITES delegates consider whether or not to list the Kaiser’s spotted newt under Appendix I, by necessity they will also need to explore how to target online sales of illegal wildlife and wildlife products.  Hence, discussion on the fate of this small creature, which is poised to become the first species protected because of e-commerce, can shine a welcome spotlight on a sticky issue.

Related information:


Species Survival Network

An interview with Alejandra Goyenechea, Defenders of Wildlife, on the amphibian trade and CITES can be found at The WildLife radio show and podcast.

India in Need of More Wildlife Preserves…………….“As India develops into a world economic power, it is critical that conservation planning is part of that expansion.”- WCS Staff

This article addresses the need for new parks and corridors aimed at conserving India’s rarest megafauna– some 25 mammalian species of concern. As I review elephant poaching data on African elephants for 2009, I’m reminded of how many of these animals are taken inside protected preserves by the very people who are employed to prevent poaching in the first place.  Much of the ivory from African elephants makes its way into  Asian markets.  Habitat protection is critical to in situ conservation efforts, and hopefully the game wardens on the subcontinent will help keep the poachers at bay.

The Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) is a leading support organization for governmental agencies responsible for managing human-wildlife conflict in many regions of the country. They focus much of their attention on the tiger trade, but also combat poaching of other coveted species. They provide workshops for wildlife law enforcement personnel with the following agencies and other entities:  National Police Academy; Indian Institute of Criminology; Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI);  Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP); Customs and Excise; Wildlife Institute of India; Tiger reserve authorities, and other enforcement training centers.


Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus