The Internet has emerged as one of the greatest threats to rare species, fuelling the illegal wildlife trade and making it easier to buy everything from live baby lions to wine made from tiger bones, conservationists said today.

The Web’s impact was made clear at the meeting of the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES. Delegates voted overwhelmingly today to ban the trade of the Kaiser’s spotted newt, which the World Wildlife Fund says has been devastated by the Internet trade.

A proposal from the United States and Sweden to regulate the trade in red and pink coral - which is crafted into expensive jewelry and sold extensively on the Web - was defeated. Delegates voted the idea down mostly over concerns the increased regulations might impact poor fishing communities.

Trade on the Web poses “one of the biggest challenges facing CITES,” said Paul Todd, a campaign manager for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

“The Internet is becoming the dominant factor overall in the global trade in protected species,” he said. “There will come a time when country to country trade of large shipments between big buyers and big sellers in different countries is a thing of the past.”

The IFAW has done several surveys of illegal trade on the Web and found that thousands of species are sold on auction sites, classified ads and chat rooms, mostly in the United States but also Europe, China, Russia and Australia.