ITHACA, N.Y. — You can find anything on eBay and Amazon — including rare and endangered insects that are illegal to sell. A new study from Cornell University researchers finds that exotic or threatened insects and spiders can be easily purchased online since there’s no adequate oversight.
Researchers found a number of these creepy crawlers, including tarantulas, being sold illegally online. John Losey, the study’s lead author and a professor of entomology at Cornell, says the study started as a project for his Insect Conservation Biology course. The study includes 18 student co-authors who were undergraduates in 2019 when the research was done.
“We surveyed the web to determine if there were species available for sale that are rare, threatened, or for which commerce is in some way regulated,” says Losey in a university release. “As they get rarer and rarer, they become more and more valuable to collectors, and then the amount of collecting and sale, if not done sustainably, has greater impact on those species.”
Researchers broadly searched the internet and after gathering leads, they formalized its process and divided searches across several platforms, including Amazon, eBay, Etsy and Alibaba, among others. They then narrowed their search on vulnerable insect and spider species found on the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) lists, the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species and the U.S. Endangered Species List.