No More Ivory on EBay!

From January 2009, and not a minute too soon, eBay will begin to enforce a global ban of ivory sales from its market website. According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), more than 4000 ivory products have been listed on ebay so this is a significant move by eBay and, as their market website is a worldwide and hugely popular phenomenon, it’s also a powerful message that will reach many people who remain unaware that elephant poaching is on the increase.

The ban was prompted in part by an IFAW report aptly titled “Killing with Keystrokes” which investigated Internet trading of endangered animal products. The report found that such trading was causing an immediate threat to the survival of elephants. So kudos to eBay for acting swiftly and responsibly.

Ivory selling is already illegal under the 1989 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species but the black market being what it is and the Internet being what it is, unethical traders are bound to sneak through. And to be fair to eBay, to quote the head of trust and safety for eBay UK, Richard Ambrose . . .

“The complex nature of regulations that govern [ivory’s] sale globally means it is extremely difficult for us to distinguish between legitimate and illegal trade,”

Well now eBay has simplified things by introducing the blanket ban. So, thanks eBay. It was the right and only thing to do.

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7 Responses to No More Ivory on EBay!

  1. the Grit says:

    Hi y’all,

    What we need is a genetically engineered elephant that sheds its tusks every year. That would make it more economical to not kill the grand beasts and just hang around to pick the ivory up off the ground. Of course, I suspect that some of the people doing the killing are so sick that it wouldn’t matter.

    the Grit

  2. earthpal says:

    Hi Grit,

    Yes, if only they shed their tusks naturally. And yes, one would have to be pretty sick to be capable of such slaughter.

    According to a National Geographic article, America is the second largest consumer of ivory, China of course being the largest . . .

  3. keithsc says:

    Brilliant! A genetically engineered elephant designed so it would grow its tusks really quickly and shed them once a year. Or we could wait for them to die naturally. Having just looked at the CITES website it seems that some ivory selling is permitted and that is maybe where the problems lie. How can it be regulated to ensure that no elephants are killed for their tusks? Is it impossible to do this?

  4. earthpal says:

    Hi Keith, yes the international treaty rules are a bit grey and allow for loopholes etc.. which really needs sorting. Even on eBay, some small ivory products are allowed through such as piano’s with ivory keyboards and I guess we can’t go around confiscating all piano’s with ivory keyboards.

    I was dismayed to read this recent news item:
    They’re going to auction off the stockpiles of ivory and give the money to elephant conservation projects. They say the tusks are from elephants who died naturally which seems fair enough but surely it will only feed into the popularity of ivory and incentivise poachers to poach more.

    Surely the thing to do with the ivory stockpile is not to auction to the highest bidders but to sell the tusks at the lowest possible price so that the value of ivory will fall thus making poaching a profitless game.

  5. the Grit says:

    Hi earthpal,

    Well, we’re at least the second largest consumer of a good deal of everything, so that’s not a surprise. Though, if I understand things in this area correctly, we get most of our illegal ivory from Arctic countries that bash in the heads of walruses and such for their tusks.

    On the other hand, and while the genetically modified elephant bit was only meant to be a thought provoking joke, if you want a real solution to the poaching problem it won’t come by lowering ivory prices, but from the rest of the world contributing to the US efforts to help lift Africa out of poverty. While we’re spending billions of dollars a year to help them with their various disease problems, the EU, which is almost as rich as the US and a lot closer to the problem area and a lot more to blame for their problems, could, perhaps, match our contributions with some programs to boost their standard of living so that slaughtering elephants won’t seem like such a lucrative job?

    Hi kethsc,


    I do have my moments, although they usually involve less respectable areas of world events. Still, if some genetic scientist would come up with the right DNA splicing, some of our local farmers might be interested in going together on raising a herd. We’ll have to give some serious thought to the fencing required though 😉 Really, the four strands of barbed wire one needs to confine cattle is expensive enough, but what would it take for elephants? 10 strand; 15? Something as pictured in Jurassic Park? And one has to get this right. I can well recall from my cattle raising days how upset the neighbors would get over the occasional cow getting out and munching on their flower bed. I strongly suspect that they would have an even more negative attitude toward an escaped elephant!

    the Grit

  6. matt says:

    Grit makes a very important point in that poverty is one of the main drivers of poaching. Bringing Africans out of poverty is absolutely essential.

    Of course the other is that without a market it would be worth little as a resource. That market isn’t going to go away although it has probably strunk since various intitiatives were put in place to curb the ivory trade.

    Outlawing the ivory trade doesn’t stamp it out. Far from it. If someone wants something and they are filthy rich they will get it. So what to do?

    For most of us it makes no sense to kill an animal to use only less than 5% of it, leaving the rest to rot. The idea of genetically growing the bone tissue or ivory from a lab maybe the best way forward if indeed this is at all possible. At the moment they only talk of growing tissue.

  7. the Grit says:

    Hi Matt,

    Well said. On the other hand, as the various drug trades have shown, it’s a lot easier to control production than end markets. On the science end of the question, in another 10-20 years, we should be able to make just about anything biological, or straight to mineral formation if nano technology develops as expected, on a small industrial scale. A few years later, if power is available, we should be able to make any basic item anyone wants from raw elements. Assuming, of course, that our society lasts that long. One can hope. (Sorry to be so negative, but our elections are depressing me)

    the Grit

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