Alibaba Takes Action To Stop The Sale Of Wild Birds On Taobao

After the outcry from birders, conservationists and members of the public about the illegal sale of ‘critically endangered’ YELLOW-BREASTED BUNTINGS on Taobao (Alibaba’s online sales platform), it was good to receive a call from Alibaba on Friday.  The official was ‘horrified’ to see the social media posts, confirmed the link had already been taken down and that a review of procedures was underway.

We discussed the scale of wild birds and poaching equipment for sale on Taobao and the fact that it was illegal to trap ANY wild bird in China without a license.  I was invited to send any links of concern and the company would ensure they were investigated.

After some fast work by some Beijing birders, I sent to the company more than 100 links, almost certainly the tip of the iceberg, where sellers were offering wild birds, traps or mist nets.  I await their response.

Alibaba now has a chance to show that they genuinely care about stopping the illegal wildlife trade and to demonstrate the company’s policy is consistent with the public statements by their Chairman, Jack Ma, President Xi Jinping’s vision of a “Beautiful China” and, most importantly, the law.

On the latter point, whilst selling wild birds is clearly illegal, the sale of mist nets and traps to catch birds appears to be a grey area.  Nevertheless, it seems to me the reputational benefit of banning the sale of these items on their platform will significantly outweigh any negligible loss of revenue.

Rest assured Beijing birders will be checking regularly to see whether the links provided to Alibaba have been removed and we’ll report on progress – good or bad – via this website.  In the meantime, if you find any links of sellers offering wild birds or trapping equipment on Taobao, please contact me and I’ll ensure they are passed on to the company.


Title image: a caged Yellow-breasted Bunting being used as a lure.

12 thoughts on “Alibaba Takes Action To Stop The Sale Of Wild Birds On Taobao”

  1. Job well done for getting the attention of Taobao and mobilizing Chinese birders. This is how outdated cultural practices will be changed, slowly but surely. The birds are lucky to have a friend like you!

    1. Thank you Jaanki. It’s a team effort and we’re still a long way from eradicating this trade.. but it’s a step forward. There are other online platforms such as QQ and WeChat which also facilitate the illegal sale of wild birds so there is much more to be done. But it’s important to celebrate any positive action..!

  2. Thank god something is being done from the side of Alibaba in this dreadful affair. I am immensely grateful and proud of you for your efforts in this matter. Let’s hope that, for the Yellow-breasted Bunting, the newly burgeoning interest in wildlife in China (in which you are playing such a significant part) will not be too little, too late!

    1. Thank you Eildert. It’s a small step and Alibaba still has a lot to do to comply with the law, not to mention protecting their reputation. But it appears at least that they are moving in the right direction and that deserves credit. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the links we provided and will be sure to turn up the heat if needed..! Thanks again, Terry

  3. Terry, I see Mist Nets for sale on eBay and supplied from Portugal an Germany here;

    I understand ornithologists also use these nets for banding and releasing birds in research projects. So, the sale of these items is clearly a grey area that is *not* unique to China.

    The scanning capability of Wechat for censorship purposes can also be easily harnessed to finding anyone offering wild birds for sale. Do keep up your good efforts.

    1. Dear Wimal. Thank you. Yes, most online sales platforms appear to have questionable ethics when it comes to the trade in wildlife and poaching products. The sale of mist nets *should* be tightly controlled to ensure they are sold only to those with a license granted for scientific study. Personally, I think that all such products should be removed from online sales platforms and available only directly from the manufacturers who should be required to ensure the potential buyer has the appropriate license before allowing a sale. At the moment, given the legal grey area for mist nets and other poaching products, we must appeal to the social conscience of these online sales platforms.. far from ideal! Thanks again for your comment. Terry

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