Save the Newts from the Internet

Photo courtesy TRAFFIC

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The CITES meeting is underway in Qatar this week, with 175 member nations struggling to regulate international trade in everything from Atlantic bluefin tuna to elephant ivory, plus all kinds of other important stuff.

Getting less attention, but nevertheless interesting, is the story of the Kaiser’s spotted newt, an Iranian salamander. The species is critically endangered in the wild, believed to number fewer than 1,000 mature individuals.

The little amphibian also illustrates a new conduit for danger for wildife: the internet. The species is avidly sought by pet by collectors and wildlife enthusiasts, and its numbers have declined by more than 80 percent in recent years. Now it’s the first species under consideration for an Appendix I listing—the highest level of protection, which bans all commercial international trade in the species—under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Endangered Fauna and Flora (CITES).

WWF and TRAFFIC tell us that CITES governments will be considering whether or not to take a more proactive approach to regulating online trade, including:

  • Creating an international database of the trade
  • Implementing scientific research to gauge the correlation between wildlife loss and online trade
  • Forging a closer collaboration with INTERPOL, the international law enforcement agency

In 2006, an investigation by TRAFFIC into the sale of Kaiser’s spotted newts revealed 10 websites claiming to stock the species. One Ukrainian company claimed to have sold more than 200 wild-caught specimens in a single year. The problem is the internet connects sparse sellers with sparse buyers willing to pay $300 for a newt, amplifying the troubles for wildlife.
 

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TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

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