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eBay bans ivory sales

By Blogger for The Christian Science Montior / October 21, 2008

Two elephant calves drink water at a water hole in Kenya's Tsavo East national park. Kenyan elephants are increasing after successful anti-poaching measures and bans on the illegal ivory trade, wildlife officials have said.

AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo

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Starting next year, just about the only ivory that you can buy on eBay will be vintage soap.

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Citing a new report that found that eBay is greatly exacerbating the black market trade in elephant tusks, the online auction site announced Monday that it will ban all commerce in ivory, including most antiques, starting January 1, 2009.

The announcement came ahead of  a report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare that over a six-week period tracked more than 7,000 posts offering body parts of protected wildlife, including pelts, teeth, bones, horns, and feathers. The report, titled "Killing with Keystrokes" [PDF], found that the United States was responsible for more than 70 percent of the trade, an amount nearly 10 times more than the two countries with the next highest volume, Great Britain and China. Nearly three-fourths of the posts were for ivory products.

By far, the single largest seller was eBay, with 73 percent of the total posts tracked on US websites.

The online auctioneer tried a limited ban on ivory last year, blocking all cross-border sales. According to eBay's official blog, that ban attempted "to balance the protection of endangered and protected species while also providing a way for sellers to offer legitimate ivory products legally allowed for sale within domestic markets."

But the illicit ivory sales continued. "[G]iven the complexities of the global ivory trade, and the distinct and unique characteristics of the eBay Marketplace," says eBay's blog , "the sale of any ivory on our site continued to be a concern within the company and among stakeholders."

In the face of this concern, eBay opted for a near-total ban on the pachyderm's tusks. The Associated Press details the prohibitions:

Exceptions for some items with small amounts of ivory, such as pianos, will be made, though the items must have been made before 1900.
Items that have a large amount of ivory, regardless of their age, will not be permitted for sale. These would include chess sets and jewelry.

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