An Interview with Barbara Cartwright, IFAW Campaign Manager on eBay Global Ban on Ivory
As we reported on October 21, 2008 eBay annouced a global ban on the trade of ivory on all eBay auction sites. That ban is set to take place starting January 1, 2009.
IFAW is grateful to eBay for taking this important step forward for elephant conservation. By setting the bar with a global ban on ivory, eBay is proving to be an example for both governments and online dealers to also take a stand on one of today’s most critical wildlife issues – Internet trade.
Barbara Cartwright, IFAW's Campaign Manager from Canada sat down with eBay to talk about the importance of this ban and what it will mean to the world's elephant populations. Here is an excerpt from that interview:
1) IFAW has been studying the on-line trade of endangered species for some time now. What prompted your interest in this issue, and what have you found?
IFAW has been fighting the illegal wildlife trade for about thirty years, using investigations, education, and advocacy to better understand and fight this damaging trade. Over the past ten or so years, we became increasingly concerned about the way the Internet could be used to facilitate the illegal wildlife trade. The web can link buyers and sellers through a lucrative and relatively risk-free channel for illegal trade. Current national laws aimed at regulating wildlife trade have not kept pace with the growth of Internet trade. And even where laws exist, enforcement is often inadequate or simply not focused on trafficking in wildlife.
In an effort to combat this trade, IFAW began actively monitoring common internet trade sites in 2004. We have published 4 reports that revealed shockingly high numbers of wildlife products traded daily on the web. IFAW’s most recent report, Killing With Keystrokes, detailed the results of an intensive investigation undertaken, in part, to better understand the scope and scale of the illegal wildlife trade. In the course of just six weeks, we were astonished to find more than 7,000 wild animals and animal products for sale online. This figure was all the more alarming because the survey was restricted only to trade in CITES Appendix 1 protected species —and even within this narrow group we only looked at primates, elephant, reptiles, large wild cats, rhinoceros, and birds.
2) Why is the ivory trade a problem for elephants when it is legal?
First, it is important to state that the ivory trade has been banned internationally since 1989 under Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (or “CITES”). It was made illegal after a decades long crisis in which elephants, slaughtered for their tusks, were driven towards extinction. With the proper permits, CITES allowed for the sale of antique ivory that was obtained before the convention came into place. Sadly, in 1997, and again in 2008, the total ban was further diluted, allowing a resumption of limited commercial trade in elephant ivory from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe via two stockpile sales.
In effect, the commercial trade in ivory has created a tragic situation for elephant populations with many thousands being killed annually for their tusks. Since it is impossible for the human eye to distinguish between legal and illegal ivory, outlaws have taken advantage of the “loophole” of legal sales to target weakly patrolled elephant habitats to smuggle and launder ivory from poached elephants into legal inventories.
But whether the ivory was obtained legally or illegally, it comes at the price of more dead elephants – any trade in ivory drives more poaching. If elephants in Africa and Asia are to have a chance of survival, the trade in ivory must be completely prohibited both domestically and internationally.
The ban of ivory on eBay is a momentous step forward to protect elephants. As our campaign continues IFAW will continue to encourage other sites to follow eBay’s lead. Meanwhile, it is critical to improve the myriad of laws and enforcement that govern the illegal trade both on-line and on-the-ground. IFAW will continue to work with international and national authorities such as Interpol, CITES and USFWS to both formally and informally provide information and data on the illegal wildlife trade. And, IFAW will continue to monitor and investigate the illegal trade in wildlife on the web.