Kenya burns, but Europe still covets Ivory

Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Washington, DC
As Kenya prepares to send tons of ivory up in smoke tomorrow, a new investigation shows that in many European countries the bloody trade in elephant ivory continues.

A recent International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org) survey of websites in the UK, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Germany, found a thriving in trade in ivory items – the legality of most of which is questionable.

“In just two weeks, our survey found more than 660 items with a total advertising value of almost €650,000.00 across a variety of European websites. A shocking 98 per cent of adverts failed to comply with website policies of providing evidence of legality,” said Kelvin Alie, Director of IFAW’s Wildlife Trade Programme.

Meanwhile, to mark African Elephant Law Enforcement Day tomorrow, Kenya wildlife authorities will burn several tons of contraband ivory. The ivory was seized in Singapore in 2002 and DNA analysis of the 200 tusks showed that most of the ivory came from elephants poached in Zambia.

The burning of the ivory is being held under the auspices of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), an intergovernmental initiative by eight Eastern and Southern African countries supported by IFAW that investigates illegal trade in fauna and flora.

“Europeans must realise that what they see as a pretty trinket for sale online is one facet of an ongoing war against cruelty and for the protection of biodiversity. In Kenya, and across most African range states, elephants are ruthlessly slaughtered by poachers to fuel the illegal ivory trade,” said Alie.

“Any legal trade in ivory encourages elephant poaching by providing a cover for illegal trade in ivory. The war on illegal ivory trade and elephant poaching can only be won by removing elephant ivory not just from international trade, but entirely from the global marketplace. If ivory had no commercial value, there would be little incentive for anyone to kill elephants for their tusks and one of the major threats to their survival would disappear,” he said.

Alie commented that investigations conducted by the LATF highlighted the significance and need for close cooperation among enforcement agencies to combat elephant poaching and ivory trafficking in Africa.

“This is a tremendous victory for the LATF and the more countries that join and support the task force the more success we can have in the future,” Alie said.

IFAW’s investigation into the ivory trade on European websites tracked 43 sites in five countries and found 669 advertisements for ivory, with a total value of €649,688.90. France had the most active market for ivory with 262 advertisements online. At €231,234.00, Spain had the highest overall monetary value of advertisements and was the most lucrative country for ivory peddlers with 118 ivory advertisements having an average asking price just shy of €2,000.00 each. Germany has the least active online ivory market with 39 advertisements found across seven websites.

In addition to funding DNA research to catch wildlife smugglers, IFAW have spent years building capacity for wildlife law enforcement in Africa in a bid to bring poachers to justice before they have a chance to kill elephants for their tusks. IFAW provides equipment such as jeeps, radios, uniforms, binoculars and more to protect elephants as well as training wildlife law enforcement officials on the front lines in techniques for evidence gathering, detecting smuggling methods, identifying smuggling routes and wildlife species identification.

“We can do everything possible to protect elephants in Africa but as long as markets for ivory exist elephants will continue to die to feed those markets. If we are to succeed, then it’s time managers and owners of online trading sites made a more serious effort to better regulate the way they allow the advertising and sale of ivory,” said Alie.

NOTES

Because the ivory offered for sale in the online advertisements surveyed was not handled directly it is impossible to be 100 per cent certain of its legality. For this reason ivory was placed in one of three categories:

 Likely Compliant: listings claiming legality (either under national or international law) and offering some form of supporting proof or documentation were classified as Likely Compliant so long as they were also in compliance with Web site policy. There was no further investigation into these claims, despite the ease with which documentation can be altered or counterfeited.
 Possible Violation: this category refers to advertisements that made a claim of legality (either under national or international law), but failed to provide any supporting proof or documentation and therefore had a greater potential for being in violation of law and/or Web site policy.
 Likely Violation: advertisements containing no reference at all to legality (either under national or international law) and/or clearly contravening Web site policy were classified as the most serious Likely Violations.

 

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