eBay Bans Ivory Trading to Protect Endangered Elephants

SAN JOSE, California, October 22, 2008 (ENS) - The top online auction site, eBay, has announced that it will no longer allow the trading of ivory on its websites as of January 1, 2009.

In reviewing the complex issue of ivory trading, eBay consulted with the World Wildlife Fund, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Humane Society of the United States, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In a post on the eBay Ink blogsite Monday, Richard Brewer-Hay wrote that following these consultations, "The team concluded that we simply can’t ensure that ivory listed for sale on eBay is in compliance with the complex regulations that govern its sale. So, to protect our buyers and sellers, as well as animals in danger of extinction, eBay has decided to institute a global ban on the sale of all types of ivory."

eBay Inc. senior regulatory counsel Jack Christin explained that the company already has regulations in place for the sale of ivory and will now be broadening them to ban ivory sales. "Due to the unique nature of eBay’s global online marketplace and the growing complexity of the rules and regulations surrounding the sale of legal ivory, we will be moving from a ban on cross-border sales to rolling out a complete ban of the sale of ivory on eBay," he said.

"This policy is actually consistent with our general approach to the sale of items made from parts of animals - items made from a part of an endangered or protected species cannot be sold on eBay," Cristin said. "Since a vast majority of ivory items are made from African and Asian elephants that are endangered or protected, we think this is the right approach to take for our community."

Wildlife conservationists around the world are celebrating the decision as a major victory.

eBay's new policy was announced just hours before the release of the latest investigative report from the International Fund for Animal Welfare showing Internet trade in wildlife poses an immediate threat to the survival of elephants and many other endangered species. Every year, more than 20,000 elephants are illegally slaughtered in Africa and Asia to meet demand for ivory products.

IFAW reported the results of a six-week investigation that tracked more than 7,000 wildlife product listings on 183 websites in 11 countries. It singled out eBay as the largest contributor to the problem, responsible for almost two-thirds of the online trade in wildlife products worldwide.

IFAW's report, "Killing with Keystrokes: An Investigation of the Illegal Wildlife Trade on the World Wide Web," shows that more than 70 percent of all endangered species products listed for sale on the Internet occur in the United States, with the next two leading countries, the United Kingdom and China, accounting for a much smaller percentage of the trade.

Over 4,000 elephant ivory listings were uncovered during the investigation, with most of the sales taking place on eBay's U.S. site. In one transaction, a user purchased a pair of elephant tusks off eBay for more than $21,000.

Of all product listings tracked by the report, 73 percent were elephant ivory, exotic birds accounted for nearly 20 percent and primates, big cats and other animals made up the rest.

"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," said IFAW Campaigns Manager Barbara Cartwright. "eBay has set the standard for protecting elephants, now governments and other online dealers need to follow their example."

"While this is a great victory for the elephants, IFAW is still calling on all online platforms to ban ALL trade in endangered species. Also, IFAW will be strictly monitoring eBay over the coming months to ensure this ivory ban is in place and successful," said the conservation group's spokesperson Colleen Cullen.

From Sydney, Australia, the Humane Society International applauded eBay's decision. In 2002, an HSI investigation discovered thousands of ivory items offered each day on eBay, and the organization brought its concerns to eBay at the time.

"We too are concerned that the global demand for ivory has been a significant factor in the poaching of endangered and protected species, especially African and Asian elephants," wrote Christin in an email to HSI this week. "In order to protect our buyers and sellers, as well as animals in danger of extinction, we have taken the proactive measure to institute a global ban on the sale of all types of ivory."

"The laws and regulations pertaining to ivory trade are confusing and riddled with loopholes that are exploited by those involved in the international and domestic ivory trade," said Nicola Beynon, HSI senior program manager. "eBay's decision to wash its hands of the uncontrollable, bloody ivory trade is commendable and should set an example for others."

Sheren Shrestha, assistant program officer with the Wildife Trust of India, called eBay's decision a "major victory" but said this is just the beginning of a broader effort to ban online trade in endangered wildlife and their parts.

"That the online trade in wildlife parts was ongoing in Indian territory was proven in August, when the Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force and Wildife Trust of India carried out an undercover operation in Meerut. Two traders, dealing in live animals including schedule I birds, were arrested. The traders used social networking sites such as orkut to find customers," Shrestha wrote.

"There could be many other sites, free or password dependent, dealing in wildlife products of Appendix I or II species," wrote Shrestha, referring to lists of endangered species maintained by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES.

Species on CITES Appendix I may not be traded internationally, while species on Appendix II may be traded only under a strictly controlled permitting system.

African and Asian elephants are protected under the CITES treaty and also under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

"With a few limited exceptions, selling ivory has been illegal since 1989," said Jeff Flocken, director of IFAW's Washington, DC. office. "However, websites are still teeming with ivory trinkets, bracelets, and even whole tusks for sale."

"Internet dealers profit off of every piece of elephant ivory sold on their websites," said Flocken, "and every piece of that ivory came from a dead elephant."

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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