TALLAHASSEE, Fla - In our technologically advanced society, we have a lot of advantages and conveniences. Unfortunately, technological advancements can also provide an avenue for law violators. Online businesses that deal in the wildlife trade are an increasing concern for Florida’s law enforcement agencies.
With merely a laptop, garage and mailbox, anyone can open a business dealing in Florida’s wildlife. These businesses could be exchanging dangerous species, such as conditional snakes and lizards, or venomous reptiles, which are a serious public-safety concern. Also, if released into the wild, these nonnative species can pose a threat to indigenous wildlife. The Internet needs to be monitored to protect Florida’s natural resources from exploitation.
Fortunately, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is aware of this issue and has an effective tool on its side: the Internet Crimes Unit.
The unit, a part of the FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement, is experiencing tremendous success. In the past six months, seven hard-working undercover officers have made 151 arrests and issued 51 warnings through covert Internet operations. This technique is one of the latest evolving technologies to combat illegal captive wildlife sales.
Legitimate businesses that follow FWC captive wildlife regulations are safe for the public and the environment. However, the FWC has uncovered many illegal businesses throughout the state. The presence of these illegal businesses undermines legitimate companies. Legal wildlife trade businesses obtain the appropriate permits from the FWC and operate safely, and these businesses are the ones with the right to operate in this state.
The Internet Crimes Unit uses investigative measures that supplement our traditional face-to-face efforts. These online methods are effective in enhancing public safety, continuing conservation efforts, combating invasive species and ensuring fair business practices.
One case in Central Florida has even led to investigations into six other states. The case involves a particularly large illegal import/export business that was shut down last year. FWC investigators are continuing to examine it, and six people have been charged with 121 criminal violations so far.
The FWC remains active in its conservation efforts. Its Division of Law Enforcement is not only able to react to conservation issues, but, through efforts like the Internet Crimes Unit, it is protecting Florida’s future by pursuing proactive measures. The Internet Crimes Unit is actively working to protect our state by tracking down Internet crimes at their source.
You can also help the FWC in its conservation endeavors. To report wildlife law violations, visit MyFWC.com/Violation or call 888-404-FWCC (3922).