Motherboard: Traffickers Are Using Instagram and YouTube as Black Markets for Live Cheetahs

Motherboard Illegal Wildlife Trade

Screenshot: YouTube

A new report identified more than 900 advertisements for poached cheetahs on social media.

Since 2012, at least 1,367 cheetahs were offered for sale on social media and ecommerce websites. Instagram and YouTube are conduits for traffickers selling the endangered animals as pets, according to a Monday report from the Cheetah Conservation Fund.

In recent years, platforms such as Instagram have become marketplaces for exotic animals, where some species are illegally sold into captivity. Instagram now warns users about wildlife exploitation through a pop-up message, but sellers continue to openly hawk cheetahs and other species—a problem that is “difficult to pursue legally,” Patricia Tricorache, assistant director of strategic communications and illegal wildlife trade at the Cheetah Conservation Fund, told Motherboard over the phone.

The new report is one of the only comprehensive analyses of social media’s role in the illegal cheetah trade.

Between January 2012 and June 2018, Tricorache found 906 ads for trafficked cheetahs on social media and ecommerce platforms, and Instagram alone was responsible for 77 percent of the ads. The Kuwaiti ecommerce app 4Sale and Facebook were also used by traffickers. Buyers and sellers frequently used WhatsApp to complete the transaction, Tricorache said.

Motherboard viewed more than a dozen of the YouTube and Facebook ads for cheetahs that were found by the Cheetah Conservation Fund. All are still currently up.

One YouTube video shows six cubs in a garbage filled room. Another depicts two very young cubs whose heads are color-coded with yellow and pink dye. On Facebook, a seller shared a photo of a two-month-old cheetah with a metal chain around its neck. “How much,” several commenters asked.

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