E-commerce giant eBay banned sales of ivory on the eve of the release of a report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare showing that online trade in wildlife products poses a significant threat to elephants and other endangered species.
EBay's decision, announced Monday on its blog, will bar sales of all types of ivory in the company's e-marketplaces worldwide effective January 1, 2009.
The change comes less than two months after IFAW renewed its call to eBay for a ban on ivory sales — a demand that followed eBay's launch of its eco-friendly WorldofGood.com marketplace.
EBay eliminated cross-border ivory trade in 2007 and posted extensive rules reflecting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations. But the animal conservation group said the measures by eBay in the U.S. did not go far enough to stop trade in suspect goods.
In an interview with GreenBiz in September, Jeffrey Flocken, the director of IFAW's office in Washington, D.C., noted that eBay Australia and eBay Germany had already banned ivory sales.
At the time, eBay spokeswoman Nicola Sharpe told GreenBiz, "We try to do what's best for our community, we do want to do the right thing. It's tricky because we don't have warehouses, so we don't ever see the items."
She also said the company was continuing to work with the Fish and Wildlife Service and other stakeholders on the issue.
IFAW released the findings of its latest study of online trade in wildlife products yesterday.
The 21-page report, "Killing with Keystrokes: An Investigation of the Illegal Wildlife Trade on the World Wide Web," details a six-week examination of 7,122 wildlife product listings on 183 websites in 11 countries. The report said more than 70 percent of the suspected endangered species products were listed for sale in the United States.
Regarding ivory, the report acknowledged eBay's efforts in restricting the trade, but also said 83 percent of the ivory listings reviewed by investigators for the project involved eBay.
"It is nearly impossible to distinguish between legal and illegal ivory on the Internet," a situation that enables illegal trade to continue, the report said.
In calling for an end to online sales of products made from endangered wildlife, IFAW urged tougher laws against such trade and stricter enforcement of the measures already on the books.
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