A three month investigation by IFAW into internet trade in wildlife in eleven countries found that most items for sale may violate CITES endangered species agreements.

In response, the internet sales giant eBay has announced it will ban the sale of elephant ivory products. The findings in the International Fund for Animal Welfare report ‘Killing With Keystrokes’ support the growing contention that all sales of elephant ivory should be banned as it difficult to prevent ivory from poached animals ending up in the “legal” trade.

EBay Bans Global Internet Ivory Sales: IFAW Investigation Showed Significant Illegal Wildlife Web Trade
EBay Bans Global Internet Ivory Sales: IFAW Investigation Showed Significant Illegal Wildlife Web Trade

Background on the Ivory Trade Issues

Sales of ivory from obtained before the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) pact was signed is not illegal. However sellers are required to prove that the ivory they are selling was from legally killed elephants.

In most cases the items offered for sale on any of the internet sites did not come with appropriate provenance of compliance with CITES. In an official eBay statement, it was stated that antique items such as tables with a small amount of inlay or pianos with ivory keys would still be allowed as provenance should not be a problem.

In Africa some range states have been pushing to legalize sale of ivory from elephants culled in areas where the populations have grown enough to be presenting problems for the people of the area. In a controversial move, China has been added to the list of approved buyers to participate in a one off sale of ivory from those range states.

The Worst Offenders

The United States came in at the top of the list with nearly 70% of the illegal trade. The next biggest volume of sales came from the United Kingdom, with China a close third. Each country accounted for about 8% of the trade.

Other Endangered Species Issues Not Addressed

While this is a step in a positive direction, the International Fund for Animal Welfare has stated it will continue to monitor sales on eBay to ensure that its sellers are in compliance with the ban. But other endangered species items including furs are not considered in the ban.

Nor does the ban on elephant ivory address the selling of exotic birds on eBay and other internet sites, despite there being equal difficultly in ensuring that the birds were not taken illegally. Live birds will continue to be bought and sold online.

Nevertheless, conservation organizations are considering this a victory. Any time a market for the sale of elephant ivory is closed the chances for a reduction in the number of elephants illegally killed increases. And the first concession by eBay may lead to better prevention of the sale of other endangered species on the internet.