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.