eBay bans ivory sales




Internet auction company eBay has announced it will no longer permit the selling of ivory, or elephant tusks.

Credit: Wikimedia/Schuyler Shepherd

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WASHINGTON: eBay announced a ban on all ivory sales as a conservation group released a report on Tuesday accusing the Internet auction house of contributing to the trade in endangered wildlife products.

Just hours before the release of the report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), eBay said that it would institute a global ban on the sale of elephant ivory products by January 1, 2009.

eBay's announcement, made by its in-house blogger Richard Brewer-Hay, said the move followed consultations with the IFAW, the World Wildlife Fund, Humane Society of the United States and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Ebay banned cross-border sales of ivory last year.

"However, given the complexities of the global ivory trade, and the distinct and unique characteristics of the eBay Marketplace, the sale of any ivory on our site continued to be a concern within the company," Brewer-Hay wrote.

"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," he added.

Jack Christin, an eBay lawyer, added that the auction house "will allow some antique (pre-1900) items that contain a small amount of ivory, such as a table with a small ivory inlay or an antique piano with ivory keys.

"Items which contain a significant amount of ivory, regardless of the age, such as chess sets, ivory broaches and ivory jewelry are not permitted under the new policy," he added.

Thousands of wildlife products on sale

The IFAW report, Killing with Keystrokes: An Investigation of the Illegal Wildlife Trade on the World Wide Web, found that eBay was responsible for almost two-thirds of the online trade in wildlife products worldwide.

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

More than 70 percent of all endangered species' products listed for sale on the Internet occur in the United States, the report said.

The amount of trade tracked in the United States was nearly 10 times that of the next two leading countries, Britain and China.

Elephant ivory comprised 73 per cent of all product listings tracked.

Exotic birds were second, accounting for nearly 20 percent, the report said, adding that primates, big cats and other animals are also falling victim to the e-trade in live animals and wildlife products.

IFAW campaigns manager Barbara Cartwright welcomed eBay's move. "IFAW congratulates eBay on this very important step to protect elephants," she said.

"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.

The IFAW said more than 4,000 elephant ivory listings were uncovered during the investigation, with most of the sales taking place on eBay's US site.

In one instance, a user purchased a pair of elephant tusks off eBay for more than $21,000, it said.

Black market the size of drugs and weapons

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

The IFAW said international trade in wildlife is estimated at billions of dollars annually - "a black market rivaling the size of the international trade in illegal drugs and weapons."

More than 20,000 elephants are illegally slaughtered in Africa and Asia to meet demand for ivory products, it said.

African and Asian elephants are protected under international Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).