Illegal Ivory Trade Thrives on eBay Despite Year-Old "Ban"

Thursday, June 5, 2008
Yarmouth Port, MA
Despite eBay Inc.’s announcement exactly one year ago today of a global ban on all international trade in elephant ivory, investigators with IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare; www.ifaw.org) have found that auctions of illegal or potentially illegal ivory have skyrocketed on eBay in the U.S. Further, eBay Canada faces persistent challenges as U.S.-based sellers of ivory list their contraband on the Canadian site. This increase in North American eBay ivory auctions is in stark contrast to a large reduction of such activity in some foreign countries where eBay affiliates have severely restricted or banned the trade in ivory completely.
In response to these developments, IFAW today is renewing its call for eBay, Inc. to institute a full and complete ban on all elephant ivory products worldwide.
 
“eBay’s affiliates in countries including Germany, Australia, France and China have virtually eliminated the illegal ivory trade on their Web sites thanks to severe restrictions and outright bans, ” said Jeff Flocken, IFAW’s Washington, DC, Office Director. “Unfortunately, according to the findings of IFAW’s investigations, it seems that this deadly trade has shifted to North America.”
 
With its nearly unlimited scope, largely unregulated access and relative anonymity, the Internet is emerging as the preferred method for the illicit trade in ivory and other endangered animals and their parts.
 
“The ivory trade is directly responsible for the slaughter of over 20,000 elephants each year,” according to Peter Pueschel, Director of IFAW’s Wildlife Trade program. “As the world’s largest online marketplace, eBay is one of the more significant conduits for illegal trade in wildlife products on the Internet. This puts eBay in a unique position to set an example for the rest of the industry by implementing and enforcing a comprehensive ban on ivory,” says Pueschel.  In fact, such a step is not unprecedented, as eBay, Inc. already prohibits the sale of other contraband such as firearms and ammunition.
 
IFAW and eBay country affiliates have already successfully collaborated on restricting ivory sales in some international markets. eBay France has reported a 98 per cent reduction in ivory sales and Germany has experienced a 95 per cent decrease in online ivory listings. Yet despite eBay issuing a restriction on ivory sales across international borders, ivory sales in the Unites States, home of eBay’s world headquarters and a heavily populated market, appear to have drastically increased.. Adds Pueschel, “By facilitating the continued trade of illegal ivory and animal parts, eBay remains a tacit participant in this illicit activity to which thousands of elephants fall victim each year.”
 
“Banning all ivory sales would give eBay an opportunity to become a conservation leader and take immediate action to protect elephants and other illegally traded species,” said Flocken. “IFAW stands ready to offer any assistance to eBay necessary to quickly develop and implement a strict and clear global policy banning ivory and to jointly inform and educate the public.”

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