Thinking it was ivory contraband, a buyer gets plastic instead

On the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Chinese micro blog site, a post about an online ivory shopper who was ripped off by an unscrupulous seller of counterfeit ivory, attracted many comments from the online public who is increasingly becoming conscious about wildlife conservation.

“It serves him right for engaging in illegal ivory trade!” said one person.

“If the buying stops, so will the killing,” another one chimed in.

In recent years, elephant ivory has increasingly become a must-have on the gift shopping list of many Chinese consumers. It is increasingly coveted by Chinese consumers as status symbols and by investors as “white gold.”

However, elephant ivory is banned from online trade in China and “Xiang Ya,” Chinese for elephant ivory, is blocked by e-commerce websites. To evade detection and having their listings deleted by trading sites, online ivory sellers deviously create codenames such as “African white plastic” to mask their contraband.

A bracelet that looked very much like ivory in the online picture, advertised as “African white plastic,” caught the eye of one shopper. In conversation, the seller promised the buyer that the bracelet was authentic and had African origins. The seller asked for a cash payment because he claimed the sale of “contraband” was risky. Convinced, and attracted by the low price, the buyer paid 3000 Yuan, the equivalent of $470USD what he thought was an ivory bracelet.

What the buyer received was a piece of white plastic.


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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Chief of Staff, International Fund for Animal Welfare
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Vice President for International Operations
Vice President for International Operations
Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy