eBay Slams Door on Ivory Traders

Online auctioneer and retailer eBay has banned the sale of ivory products on its Web site to help protect African and Asian elephants.

The policy goes into effect in December, and San Jose, Calif.-based eBay will begin enforcing it in January.

Thousands of Items

The decision to ban ivory items outright from its site is eBay’s second attempt to fight the trade of such merchandise in the last year. In 2007, the company banned the cross-border sales of ivory products after an investigation by the International Fund for Animal Welfare showed ivory items were prevalent on eBay’s site.

“Unfortunately, our next investigation showed [eBay] that the ban wasn’t working, because there were thousands of items still available,” Barbara Cartwright, a global team leader at IFAW, told the E-Commerce Times.

The second investigation prompted eBay’s Tuesday announcement that it would ban almost all items made of ivory from its Web site. Some exceptions to the policy include items with a small amount of ivory in them, such as pianos. However, such items must have been made before 1900.

African and Asian Elephants

The ivory trade is fueled largely by the poaching of African and Asian elephants, two species with dwindling populations.

“Back in the 1950s and 1960s, there were more than a million elephants in Africa alone,” Cartwright said. Now, there are fewer than 30,000 Asian elephants and fewer than 475,000 African elephants remaining. Each year, about 20,000 Asian and African elephants are killed through poaching or habitat destruction.

“We’ve been working with eBay for the last two years over the issue of wildlife trade on their platform,” she continued, “the key one being the trade of elephant ivory. They were cordial and happy to help. When we first met with them, they were eager to hear the data. They soon came out with a cross-border trade ban of ivory.”

The announcement Tuesday banning nearly all ivory was welcome news.

“We’re very excited,” Cartwright said. “The fact that eBay is taking such a wonderful leadership role gives us hope that other platforms will do the same.”

eBay could not be reached for comment.

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