Conservations Officers Web Savvy Patrol
Ontario’s conservation officers spend much of their time patrolling the lakes, trails and back roads of the province’s great outdoors, both near and far. What you may not know is that they are also experienced cyber sleuths.
Increasingly, conservation officers are using the Internet as a special investigative tool. While the Internet is a wonderful medium for sharing information, it can also be used to facilitate illegal activities, such as the illicit trade in wildlife. This means officers conduct more and more cyber crime investigations.
Conservation officers now actively monitor the Internet and track down people who are using the web for the purpose of trafficking in Ontario’s fish and wildlife. They pay particular attention to wildlife trade on major on-line classified websites like Kijiji, eBay and Craig’s List.
In fact, officers have found people using the Internet to buy and sell such things as angler-caught fish, wildlife taxidermy and wild animal parts, such as skulls and meat. They have even come across people trying to sell live animals, including raccoons, skunks, amphibians and reptiles. This includes a number of cases that involved the illegal trade in endangered species.
The sale of Ontario wildlife – whole or in parts, alive or dead – is generally illegal and those prosecuted face significant penalties. It is also against the law to possess without a licence or permit most reptile, amphibian, mammal, bird and even some insect species.
The Ministry of Natural Resources enforces the laws against this illegal trafficking. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act provides for penalties of up to $100,000 and two years in jail for persons convicted of these types of offences. Even heftier fines of up to $250,000 and a year in jail are possible under the Endangered Species Act.
What can you do about illegal fish and wildlife trafficking, whether on the web or in the wild? Report natural resources violations by calling 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667) toll-free anytime or contacting your local ministry office during regular business hours. You can also call Crime stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).