The findings showed that plants and seeds were found available in major online markets, and were also offered via online stores based in the US, France, Germany, Australia, the Czech Republic, the UK and others.
The Asian market was underestimated due to language constraints, the researchers said.
Researchers have thus presented a quick and easy method to assess the online availability of a highly collectible Mexican threatened cactus, commonly known as disc cactus.
“This method is easily transferable to estimate the illegal market for any species and offers an understanding of the real magnitude and main targets of this new form of threat,” said Vania Olmos-Lau affiliated with the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), in Mexico.
Compliance or other regulation mechanisms are needed in order to promote species conservation, the study said.
“We need to open our eyes to the demand for wildlife and how it can be satisfied through fair trade schemes that benefit local landowners,” Olmos-Lau added.
For major online stores, the researchers propose a policy based on filtering the publications which contain the name of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) species — which regulates international trade through issuing and control of permits.
The study was published in the journal Nature Conservation.