The new threat to endangered species comes from the dark web

The new threat to endangered species comes from the dark web

If we really care about the conservation of plants and animals, we should first of all understand where the threats come from. Searching everywhere. This is the spirit that animated the work of some researchers from the University of Adelaide who sifted through the advertisements present in a database of virtual markets in the dark web. They thus discovered that a part of those ads are for selling plants, fungi and animals, in most cases marketed by virtue of the medicinal or psychedelic properties of the compounds they contain.

Out of two million ads featured, they were about 3,000 those whose object was the trade in plants and wild animalsci (153 species identified, as stated in the magazine People and Nature, which reports the results of the survey). The authors admit that "given the low number of announcements, we assume that the current risks in terms of conservation and biodiversity on the dark web are low". However, the phenomenon should not be underestimated: "The market for plants and animals - he explained Phil Cassey of the University of Adelaide, in a note from the university - today it is mostly played free-to-air, but the fact that illegal trades are still few on the dark web does not mean that they do not exist or that they could not grow in the future".

The main message therefore that comes from the work of Cassey and colleagues is an invitation to monitor: the problem, as well as on the open web, especially that of social networks, exists and must be controlled, even on the dark web. When we talk about problems related to the trade in wild plants and animals, the researchers are not referring so much to the illegal trade, but rather to the risk from a conservation perspective and beyond: this work "it is important for understanding the threats to biodiversity (such as unsustainable harvesting of wild species) et al biosecurity (such as the illegal transport of pests, weeds and diseases) across international borders,” Cassey explained.

The analyzes on the species covered by the announcements have shown that in most cases we are talking about plants - above all originating from Central and South America those interesting for their properties - and mushrooms, followed by animals, and that only in a small part are species considered threatened. Topping the list of the most publicized species is the mushroom Psilocybe cubensis (containing psilocybin), the Mimosa tenuiflora (containing DMT, N,N-dimethyltryptamine) and kratom, Mitragyna speciosa (to which stimulant and analgesic properties are attributed). As evidenced, the species commercialized on the dark web are mainly to have access to substances with medicinal or psychedelic propertiesto a lesser extent, they are of interest for different purposes, such as decorations or as pets, reads the paper.

Finally, on the legal front, the issue is complex and difficult to define. In fact, as the authors explain, the fight against the phenomenon is based on incomplete laws with respect to the new forms of trade and the different applications in the countries from which the illegal traffic originates.

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