25 October 2008

eBay Bans Ivory

eBay Bans Ivory
Efforts against the slaughter of endangered species gained a major support. It was announced by conservation groups a few days ago that eBay, the online auction giant, decided to ban all commerce in ivory, including most heirlooms, to avoid providing a market that would encourage the slaughter of elephants.

The eBay announcement, made to the company's merchants and customers, came as a conservation organization based in Massachusetts prepared to issue the latest in a series of reports documenting how online auction sites had become a magnet for trading in items derived from endangered species, among them rare birds and reptiles sold to collectors, ivory-handled walking sticks or bracelets and figurines carved from elephant tusks.

The report, to be released by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, analyzes data gathered in a six-week survey that tracked more than 7,000 listings of wildlife or their feathers, teeth or pelts offered for sale on more than 185 Web sites in 11 countries. Nearly three-quarters of the items were elephant products, the report said.

The vast majority of the online trade in endangered animals, the report says, is done on eBay. Law enforcement officials and specialists in illegal wildlife trade said it was impossible to determine how much of the estimated US$10 billion spent each year in the illicit trade happens online.

Nichola Sharpe, a spokeswoman for eBay, said that the company had been talking about a ban with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's enforcement division and conservation groups like the World Wildlife Fund. Because of the complications of abiding by multiple and overlapping state, federal and international conservation laws, Sharpe said, eBay officials decided on the ban, effective 01 January 2008.

It can be recalled that in 2007 a similar effort was made to ban the sale of elephant ivory products, but Jeffrey Flocken of the animal welfare fund said it "has not worked at all."

EBay already has banned commerce in guns and digital music, and it is unclear whether the ivory ban would have a noticeable impact on its revenues. The new report from the animal welfare fund said the advertised price for wildlife items offered on the site during the six weeks of the study was US$ 3.87 million and the sales value about US$457,000.

The use of the Internet for black-market dealings has expanded, experts say, along with the expansion of the legitimate market for ivory, feathers, exotic birds, rare animal hides and parts of rare animals that are used for medicinal purposes. Estimates showed that in the United States alone, the value of legal wildlife commerce grew to US$2.8 billion in 2007 from US$1.2 billion in 2000.