India's wildlife police have discovered nearly 1,000 Web sites illegally selling live endangered animals, parts and rare plants.
The Indian Express reported Monday the sites offered home delivery of animals and products protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and the global Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Besides the usual tiger skins and elephant tusks, the online black market includes tarantulas, giant ladybirds and animal parts such as pangolin scales, said the newspaper. One advertisement offered a 16-inch long tokay gecko for 1 million rupees (US$18,450).
Since January, the wildlife crime control board has been hiring computer science graduates specialising in cyber forensics to trail the online smugglers.
"What makes things truly challenging is that the new age wildlife smuggler or seller is also very tech-savvy, so there's need to seek the services of cyber specialists," an officer with the Ministry of Environment & Forests told the newspaper.
The department official said one obstacle is that the Web sites were hosted in other countries.
"The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau plans to write to these countries to seek assistance in tracing IP addresses and sources of these transactions. Sellers in most cases claim to be Indian or are sourcing the 'product' from Indians. In some cases, we also found fake IP addresses being used. So clearly, this is going to be an uphill task," the officer said.