A worrying trend in France as elephant ivory is sold regularly at its auction houses

Auction houses can be used to facilitate the sale of illegal ivory objects. Auctioneers must ensure that they are not indirectly aiding traffickers by proposing the sale of ivory lots.Recently, an auction in Cannes in the South of France saw the price of ivory reach an all-time high for the sale of 47 elephant ivory tusks: prices reached €1000 per kilo for certain lots whereas the average had until now been €300 to €500/kilo. 

In total, 600 kg of ivory were bought for a grand total of €520 000, sold at this one auction, with buyers coming from all over the world to get their share including buyers from Qatar, China and even Armenia.

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Ivory objects, after having gone out of fashion for some time, seem to once again be in plentiful supply at these auction houses, and they sell well in French auction houses. The recent auction at Cannes proves that buyers are willing to pay ever higher prices for these items.

This may well be good news for auctioneers, but what does it mean for elephants?

Due to the increasing demand for ivory objects 30 000 to 50 000 elephants are poached each year to satisfy this insatiable appetite. In the biggest consumer market – China - ivory is seen as a sign of wealth. Sales such as the recent auction in Cannes result in the inevitable reinforcement of this image.

IFAW believes that whilst elephants are still being killed for their ivory, all forms of ivory sales should be banned to prevent the legal market from providing a cover for illegal ivory sales.

Let’s not forget that just last month two men were charged with attempting to sell ivory tusks at an auction house for ‘attempted fraud as part of an organised group’. This came following a control by ONCFS (the French national hunting and wildlife agency) officers of an auction house in Cannes, where two pairs of illegal elephant tusks totaling 110kg had been put up for sale.

A checkup of the official documents provided to allow the legal sale of these tusks showed them to be fraudulent. A following raid by gendarmes from OCLAESP (The French central office against attacks towards the environment and public health) carried out at the homes of the accused resulted in the seizure of 3 more elephant tusks as well as 23 worked ivory objects.  

The propagation of wildlife crime of endangered species, a transnational crime with national security implications, led to President Hollande revealing the outlines of the French action plan to fight against the poaching and the trafficking of species as emblematic as the rhinoceros or elephant. These outlines include a strengthening in the follow up of court cases as well as stiffer penalties. 

Auction houses can be used to facilitate the sale of illegal ivory objects. Auctioneers must ensure that they are not indirectly aiding traffickers by proposing the sale of ivory lots.

Remember: every piece of ivory comes from a dead elephant. 


For more information about IFAW efforts to combat illegal wildlife trafficking, visit our campaign page.

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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
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy