In French auction houses, mysterious buyers again pay top dollar for ivory

Who are these buyers that hide behind a computer screen or telephone rushing to acquire elephant ivory?

Yet another example of the ease with which ivory sells at auction houses in France: just round the corner from the French IFAW office in Rheims, 76 kilos of raw ivory tusk sold quicker than the blink of an eye at a Sunday auction on 23 March.

I was there.

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Eleven lots of ivory objects were put up for sale at this auction. Three of these are raw ivory tusks totaling 76 kilos. There was no doubt that these objects would sell; the question is to whom and for what final purpose?

It is interesting to note that out of these eleven lots, not a single one is sold to a person actually present in the auction hall, but rather to buyers on line or on the phone. The auction hall is silent and yet these lots sell at high prices.

What a strange experience it is to see lot after lot being bid for by outsiders with no participation from the potential buyers in the room. Is the buying of these objects perhaps taboo? Who are these buyers that hide behind a computer screen or telephone rushing to acquire elephant ivory? It is difficult to know, but for several of these lots the buyers are Chinese and German.

There is still a long way to go for the world to stop placing monetary value on ivory, IFAW works on a daily basis to achieve this goal. Having said this I already take comfort in hearing encouraging remarks: moments before the auctioning of these objects, I overhear a father tell his daughter as he stares sadly at the enormous tusks, ‘You see darling this is what we steal from elephants to then sell on. It should be banned’.

Perhaps a message that still needs to hit home before the elephants too are.....going, going, gone.


For more information about IFAW efforts to stop illegal wildlife trade, visit our campaign page.

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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Cynthia Moss, IFAW Elephant Expert
IFAW Elephant Expert
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
Program Director, Elephants, Regional Director, South Africa
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy