Global environmental challenges
eBay bans ivory sales; should the world follow?
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.
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?