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Wildlife Traffickers Use Facebook, Instagram to Find Black-Market Buyers

‘If there were T-Rexes alive, they would be selling them,’ one researcher says

Baby Sumatran orangutans are just one of the many types of endangered animals trafficked online through platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Baby Sumatran orangutans are just one of the many types of endangered animals trafficked online through platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Photographer: Tanto H/Xinhua/Eyevine via Redux

Ali Ahamed’s black satchel was overflowing with turtles, their tiny heads poking out. Just a few feet away, on the hotel room floor, roughly 20 larger turtles with dark brown shells were removed from black suitcases and flipped onto their backs to keep them from crawling under the couch.

Ahamed had arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital and a popular stop for animal traffickers, from India a few days earlier to meet with his buyer, who had discovered the turtle broker through Facebook Inc.’s social network months earlier. The two negotiated a sale on Facebook Messenger. The 55 turtles in his bags included red-crowned roofed turtles, known for their brightly colored necks, and black spotted turtles with little yellow dots on their shells. Both species are endangered, and both have become popular pets in mainland China and Hong Kong.