IFAW investigation: most ivory traded in Dutch auction houses is illegal

Too High a Price for Elephants: Ivory Trade via Dutch Auction Houses
Wednesday, 12 September, 2018
The Hague, The Netherlands

New IFAW report Too High a Price for Elephants: Ivory Trade via Dutch Auction Houses shows that the majority of trade in elephant ivory via Dutch auction houses is illegal.

At least 57.8% of all trade in elephant ivory does not meet the legal requirements. Some 88% of lots offered via Dutch bricks-and-mortar auction houses do not have the right paperwork. At the online auction site Catawiki this percentage is much lower because appraisal reports are supplied. But this auction house evaluates objects based on photos, which is not permitted by law. From interviews with appraisers and auctioneers, it appears that reports are also submitted for objects that are not antiques. This means that the percentage of illegally-traded ivory is probably much higher than can currently be determined.

Trade Ban

Previous investigations have made clear that illegal ivory is processed through Europe for export to Southeast Asia. The Netherlands is one of the European countries that plays a big role in the elephant ivory trade. Sabine Zwiers, Senior Campaigner for IFAW Netherlands: “Our most recent investigation this spring offers proof once again that we, the Netherlands, need to stand up for a total ban in our country and the whole EU. The current legislation is confusing and contains many loopholes, so enforcement is difficult and violations are common. The EU is falling behind in the worldwide fight against the ivory trade. A full, mandatory and permanent ban on trading in ivory is needed for all EU member states. If we do not take these measures quickly, the elephant will not have a future!”

Parliamentary Questions

In August 2018, Minister Schouten (LNV) answered the Parliamentary Questions of political party D66 regarding the role of the Netherlands in the international ivory trade. The answers offered a glimmer of hope: the Netherlands is itself prepared to put forward stricter legislation. Zwiers continues: “IFAW welcomes this move and calls on the minister to introduce the legislation as soon as possible. In doing so, the Netherlands would be following the example of other European countries such as France and the United Kingdom.”


Every year poachers use inhumane methods to kill more than 20,000 elephants to satisfy the international ivory market. As a result, elephant populations are in a critical situation worldwide. Right now there are about 415,000 elephants in the entire continent of Africa. Between 2007 and 2014, the population dropped by a third.




Note for editors

For interviews with IFAW, additional questions, photos or other visual material, please contact Yvette Brook, +31 (0)6-20998553.

The report (in Dutch) can be found on: https://www.ifaw.org/nederland/mediacentrum/ivoorhandel-door-nederlandse-veilinghuizen


About IFAW

IFAW is campaigning for a total ban on the ivory trade by EU member states. Legal regulations alone are not enough to end the illegal trade, for which more than 20,000 elephants are killed every year. We train park rangers and customs officials to stop poachers and smugglers. We use smart data collection to prevent poachers from striking. We use investigation and research to show the true scale of the illegal trade problem. We make consumers aware that they should not buy elephant ivory and collaborate with online sales platforms to find ways to stop the trade through their websites. We also rescue baby elephants whose mothers have been killed, ensuring that they can grow up healthy and return to the wild. We work with local populations and authorities in Africa for sustainable solutions to animal-human conflicts. Together, we work to restore safe living areas and protect the elephants.


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Yvette Brook
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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
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