eBay announces ivory ban in response to IFAW report

Monday, 20 October, 2008
(London – 21 October 2008) – The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) applauds eBay’s decision to institute a global ban on the sale of elephant ivory products from 1 January 2009 and calls on all other internet traders to follow their example.

eBay’s decision was announced just hours before the release of IFAW’s latest investigative report, ‘Killing with Keystrokes: An Investigation of the Illegal Wildlife Trade on the World Wide Web’, which shows that Internet trade in wildlife poses a significant and immediate threat to the survival of elephants and many other endangered species.

The report followed a six-week investigation that tracked more than 7,000 wildlife product listings on 183 Web sites in 11 countries.

IFAW’s report showed that elephant ivory dominated the investigation, comprising 73% of all product listings tracked. Exotic birds were second, accounting for nearly 20% of the listings tracked, but primates, big cats and other animals are also falling victim to the online trade in live animals and wildlife products, according to the report.

“IFAW congratulates eBay on this very important step to protect elephants. With these findings and eBay’s leadership, there is no doubt left that all Internet dealers need to take responsibility for their impact on endangered species by enacting and enforcing a ban on all online wildlife trade. eBay has set the standard for protecting elephants, now governments and other online dealers need to follow their example,” said Robbie Marsland, Director of IFAW UK.

The report also identified the US as the most significant country for the trade in endangered species on the Internet, with over 70% of all listings. The amount of trade tracked in the US was nearly 10 times the trade tracked in the next two leading countries, the UK and China.

The investigation singled out eBay as the largest contributor to the problem, responsible for almost two-thirds of the online trade in wildlife products worldwide. Overall, eBay sites in six countries were discovered selling endangered wildlife products, including ivory and hides from elephants, turtle shells, taxidermy items, and leopard, cheetah, ocelot, lizard and crocodiles skins. Of this, a staggering two-thirds of all endangered species products listed on eBay sites were traded on eBay US, including most of the ivory listings, totalling almost 4,000. In one instance on eBay US, a user purchased a pair of undocumented elephant tusks for more than $20,000.

Despite coming second to the US, IFAW investigators in the UK found more than 550 postings for wildlife items on 22 UK websites, over the six-week period of the investigation. Of these, 289 ( less than 50%) were found on eBay UK - 93% of these listings were for elephant ivory and 34% of these were in breach of eBay UK's own policy (requiring documentation proving legality be included with the listing).

IFAW has worked with eBay UK over the past few years to improve their site policy, public awareness and enforcement measures, and continue to commend them for taking positive steps to reduce illegal ivory sales. However, as this investigation has shown, the ban which eBay Inc instituted today is timely and much deserved.

International trade in wildlife is estimated to reach well into billions of US dollars annually – a black market rivalling the size of the international trade in illegal drugs and weapons.  Every year, more than 20,000 elephants are illegally slaughtered in Africa and Asia to meet demand for ivory products. Trade in African and Asian elephants is prohibited/regulated under the international Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Notes to Editors

The report will be available at www.ifaw.org.

The UK team tracked 22 websites, and found 551 listings offering and just over half of wildlife items tracked in UK were ivory items – 279 listings.

Other animal products included leopard/jaguar, ocelot and cheetah fur coats, leopard skin rugs, elephant foot stools and a whole tiger skin rug.

Investigators found a total of 289 listings on eBay UK, of which 270 were ivory items (93%).

Unlike the largely undocumented listings of ivory on eBay US, UK sellers provided more documentation for ivory items - likely to be a result of their compliance with eBay UK’s stricter wildlife policy on ivory and possibly better filters and enforcement deterring trade in violation of site policy.


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