eBay bans sale of ivory

If you’re in the market for a pair of elephant tusks (and if you are, please stop reading this magazine), don’t expect to find them on eBay for much longer. Last night, the web-based purveyor of virtually every item under the sun announced that it would institute a global ban on ivory sales beginning January 1st, 2009.

A fine New Year’s resolution indeed, if we do say so ourselves. Too bad eBay couldn’t enforce the regulation immediately, but I guess the company wants to give those wildlife product connoisseurs time for some last-minute shopping.

The announcement came hours before a new investigative report from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) was released. The report, titled “Killing with Keystrokes: An Investigation of the Illegal Wildlife Trade on the World Wide Web,” tracked sales of wildlife products and live animal trade of primates, birds, reptiles, big cats, bears, elephants, rhinos, sharks, Tibetan antelopes, and sturgeon over the past three months on 183 websites in 11 counties. The report reveals some pretty startling statistics on just how frequent illegal wildlife products end up for sale on the internet in the US.

From an IFAW press release:

Elephant ivory dominated the investigation, comprising 73% of all product listings tracked. Exotic birds were second, accounting for nearly 20% of the listings tracked, but primates, big cats and other animals are also falling victim to the e-trade in live animals and wildlife products, according to the report.


Over 4,000 elephant ivory listings were uncovered during the investigation, with most of the sales taking place on eBay’s U.S. site. In one instance, a user purchased a pair of elephant tusks off eBay for more than $21,000.


International trade in wildlife is estimated to reach well into the billions of US dollars annually—a black market rivaling the size of the international trade in illegal drugs and weapons.

Even though elephants are technically protected by both the US Endangered Species Act and the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), experts estimate that more than 20,000 elephants are illegally killed each year in Africa and Asia. And many of those elephant’s tusks end up for sale on the Web.

IFAW is encouraging other websites to follow eBay’s lead in banning ivory sales. With any luck, the new regulations will decrease the number of people purchasing illegal wildlife products, and increase the number of folks finding eco-friendly buys online—like this electric DeLorean.