eBay bans ivory sales; should the world follow?

October 21, 2008

Young male elephants lock tusks in battle on the plains at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in Amboseli national park, southern Kenya, November 12, 2006. The United Nations, hosting November 6-17 climate talks in Nairobi, reckons blame for the vanishing snows of Kilimanjaro lies closer to hand — with global warming linked to human use of fossil fuels. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly (KENYA)eBay says it is going to ban all sales of ivory by Jan. 1 in good news for elephants after a conservation group found more than 4,000 ivory listings on the online auction site.

It’s a rare example of a company imposing tougher rules than permitted by international trade rules. Should the world follow suit?

Ivory trade has been banned since 1989 but some stockpile exports from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe have been legal under the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

eBay obviously reckons it’s better to ban sales — with a few exemptions for “antique” ivory from before 1900 — rather than try to make exemptions for “legal” ivory when telling the difference is all but impossible.An ivory merchant displays his goods in his shop in Abidjan December 15, 2003. The West African states of Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Senegal are turning a blind eye to llegal ivory sales that are fuelling poaching in surrounding countries, wildlife monitors said on Monday. Researchers found more than four tonnes on public display in Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Senegal, representing the ivory of about 760 elephants, which is far more than the estimated combined elephant population of the three states. REUTERS/Luc Gnago LG/AA   

The International Fund for Animal Welfare , which reported on eBay’s ivory, says that 20,000 elephants are killed every year in Africa and Asia to meet demand for ivory products. eBay’s ban may help choke demand for jewelry and carvings.

Yet not all is doom and gloom for elephants — a “Red List” of the world’s endangered species run by the International Union for Conservation of Nature cut the threat to the African elephant this year to “near threatened”, less grim than the previous listing as “vulnerable”, because of rising populations.

Some southern African nations argue that rising elephant numbers mean more conflicts with people, often the rural poor whose crops get trampled.

And they argue that sales from stockpiles — not just seized from poachers but also collected from elephants that die of natural causes — are a good source of export income.

So should the world follow eBay’s example and outlaw all sales?


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I think this is a great move for endangered wildlife everywhere. this move will make sure that a little less illegal trade takes place, by making it harder cto partake in it.

Posted by Munashe Gumbonzvanda | Report as abusive

Three cheers for eBay and non profit groups such as International Fund for Animal Welfare for banning ivory online sales. eBay has shown real corporate leadership here. Obviously government-sanctioned sales of ivory as mentioned in the article would not take place on eBay so that’s a moot point So technically it should be government agents who collect ivory from dead elephants and poachers and use the profits to provide training and jobs for locals and protection for the elephants. All other ivory sales should be banned in line with eBay.

Posted by Joel Ornoy | Report as abusive

All banning will do is to drive the black market as the demand for ivory will not go down. Then using the LAW OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND the price will go up causing poachers to shoot more. The best way to protect Elephants is to allow the free trade in ivory to keep the price reasonable so that it is not cost effective for the poachers and the possibility of getting caught outweighs the rewards.

Posted by A Voice of Reason | Report as abusive

NEW EBAY FOSSIL IVORY BAN : According to news paper reports, EBay will now stop the sale of ALL ivory starting December 2008. Even my legal thousand year old {non Elephant} Fossil Ivory. We have a Fish & Wildlife Cities permit for Fossil Ivory. Some countries still sell Elephant Ivory. EBay has brought the Chinese and Japanese {with others} into the EBay market place and they have been selling Elephant Ivory Illegally on EBay. EBay’s only solution seems to be banning “ALL” ivory of any age from EBay. We have been selling “100% Legal” Fossil Mammoth & Walrus Ivory { NEVER elephant Ivory} for over 18 years, 8 years on EBay alone. EBay as usual, has not even contacted the sellers in anyway about this business shattering decision that will cause us great financial loss. We are active animal rights supporters and offered our thousand years old {Non Elephant} Fossil Ivory as a alternative to the horrible slaughter of elephants for modern Ivory. We have worked very hard to comply with ALL the laws and pay the US government for a cities permit for Fossil ivory importing. As they say ” The Baby is being thrown out with the bath water” ~ EBay is filled with fake or bootleg DVD’s, but you don’t see them banning ALL DVDs , do you ? EBay has not even had the courtesy or respect to contact me as a Power Seller and respected seller of 8 years. We don’t even know the details of this EBay Ivory Ban, but we do know we will be “forced” to comply with EBay rules.

Posted by AgesTribalArts | Report as abusive

Another ill-conceived and short-sighted decision by eBay, done SOLELY for the image, with NO thought to the substance of its decision. As others have pointed out, this will only direct sales into other channels, while simultaneously ruining the lives of those who make their income on LEGAL ivory sales, including those who sell non-elephant ivory. eBay claims that it can’t authenticate which items on its site are legitimate ivory and which are not. Guess what? They can’t do that with ANY item!!! I guess that means they should ban ALL sales of ALL items, since authenticity cannot be determined by them! eBay is all about image over substance (repeat ad nauseum).

Posted by david child | Report as abusive

Will this include Ivory from Indian Elephants, whose tusks are cut off for the safety of workers who use them?

Posted by Trevis L. Kingston | Report as abusive

As far as ebay is concerned —I would not be caught dead purchasing anything real or fake on thier site because there are just too many crooks who like to boast on their reliability and honesty. Buy something–you may get it or you may not and if you get it–it will be inferior merchandise most often.

As far as the legal sale of Ivory is concerned—as long as the source is from elephants which have died naturally–that would be an ethical sale–we after all here in the US do the same with Mastodon Ivory–an extinct species that died out about 20-thousand years ago–and the sale of which goes to help support impoverished native peoples of Alaska.

The CITES folks who wrote these laws intended well but they were unqualified to write these laws because they did not realise that the laws often have an effect opposite than intended. An example of this is in Florida where developers tear up the enviroment to build homes. In the process, they cut down trees upon which are growing Orchids and Bromeliads. The law says no one may save these plants from extinction by collecting them and growing them and then perhaps putting them back out into the wilds on other trees. Thus many species have become very scarce if not extinct because of the developers and the law. Now consider that African violets are extinct in the wild but they have been saved because they are grown from nursery raised plants. The problem here is that no one is replenishing the wilds with what use to be there.

Posted by ludwig | Report as abusive

I think its a good decision by ebay for the protection and safety of wild life. I really appreciate them for their new move.

Posted by dvd replication | Report as abusive