A guide to using the Internet to monitor and quantify the wildlife trade

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13675. This is version 6 of this Preprint.

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Oliver C. Stringham, Adam Toomes, Aurelie M. Kanishka, Lewis Mitchell, Sarah Heinrich, Joshua V. Ross, Phillip Cassey


The unrivalled growth in e-commerce of animals and plants presents an unprecedented opportunity to monitor wildlife trade to inform conservation, biosecurity, and law enforcement. Using the Internet to quantify the scale of the wildlife trade (volume, frequency) is a relatively recent and rapidly developing approach, which currently lacks an accessible framework for locating relevant websites and collecting data. Here, we present an accessible guide for Internet-based wildlife trade surveillance, which uses a repeatable and systematic method to automate data collection from relevant websites. Our guide is adaptable to the multitude of trade-based contexts including different focal taxa or derived parts, and locations of interest. We provide information for working with the diversity of websites that trade wildlife, including social media platforms. Finally, we discuss the advantages and limitations of web data, including the challenges presented by trade occurring on clandestine sections of the Internet (e.g., deep and dark web).




Biodiversity, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences, Other Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Other Life Sciences


big data, deep web, e-commerce, open web, pet trade, social media, web scraping, wildlife trade


Published: 2020-05-27 20:14

Last Updated: 2020-11-19 19:43

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