Australian Law Enforcement Cracks Down Dark Web-Based Illicit Animal Trades

Australian law enforcement agencies and authorities have started to crackdown dark web marketplaces selling and distributing exotic animals throughout the country.

Since early 2017, Australian airport security officials and investigators from the Department of Environment have been actively investigating into animal trafficking and smuggling. Dark web-based marketplaces and animal traffickers have started to traffic exotic animals such as rare species of snakes and lizards by placing them inside toy teddy bears and books.

Earlier this week for instance, the Australia Post staff in Western Australia discovered rare blue tongue lizards taped from head tail and sewn into a teddy bear, local sources including The Age reported. As the teddy bear wrapped and ready to be delivered across the country crossed the x-ray detection screen at the Australia Post, its staff workers saw the following photograph:

On June 3, DeepDotWeb previously reported that award-winning business journalist Anthony Hilton described the dark web as a well-structured global criminal network. In the industries of drug, arms and animal trafficking within the dark web network, there exists rigid and well-structured criminal organizations that handle different operations professionally.

“It divides into software specialists, distributors of that software, hackers, network specialists and financial experts capable of handling and laundering the ill-gotten gains. It has middlemen and subcontractors who will offer hacking services to organisations that lack the required skills themselves,” Hilton explained.

The dark-web based animal trafficking operations that have become a major problem for Australian authorities and its Department of Environment has also been operating as a sophisticated criminal network, with certain departments of the organization handling the acquisition and distribution of animals, financing of suppliers and distributors.

According to Samantha Moore, the senior investigator at the Department of Environment, methods utilized by dark web-based animal traffickers have become increasingly sophisticated, making it that much more difficult for delivery service providers, airport security and post offices.

One issue that the Department of Environment is trying to find a solution to is the amount of animals dying due to fluctuation in temperatures and alteration in environment as time pass. When exotic and rare species such as the blue tongue lizard and turtles are sewed on to dolls and placed into emptied out books, the change in temperatures while traveling via ships and planes lead to the deaths of those animals.

“We’ve got animals that are sent in the post and if for some reason those parcels aren’t collected. the animals die. And often that’s not discovered until authorities, or the post [workers] actually smell the stench of rotting animals in the parcel,” said Moore.

Most importantly, because the illicit dark web-based animal trafficking industry within Australia has dramatically grown over the past few years, suppliers have learned methods to discover and acquire new species of exotic animals. Moore explained that newly found species quickly become the hottest properties within the industry.

For dark web criminals and animal traffickers, Moore noted that the business is highly profitable. Not only is the demand increasing for rare species, the profit margins of their operations are extremely high. According to Moore, rare species such as the shingleback lizard can be purchased for $300 in Australia but can be shipped and sold to other countries for over $10,000.

At the moment, the government is investigating into methods that can circumvent dark web marketplaces and encrypted messaging to put an end to the illicit animal trafficking industry within Australia that is rapidly expanding internationally.