Animals & Money: eBay, ivory, and the animal trade
The decision comes just before the International Fund for Animal Welfare issued a report Killing with Keystrokes that shows how illegal trade in animals and animal parts goes on right in the virtual public square -- online auctions.
IFAW looked at 183 publicly available websites in 11 countries for six weeks and turned up
7,111 online auctions for species that shouldn't be traded. The vast majority were for trade in endangered species, specifically elephant ivory, but also included live birds and some other animal products.
Tomoko A. Hosaka, AP
Brendan McDermid, Reuters
Francois Guillot, Getty Images
Scott Barbour, Getty Images
Scott Gries, Getty Images
Susana Gonzalez, Getty Images
The report looked at species that were classified by the international authority, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species as already endangered (what they call Appendix I) or at risk if we don't keep an eye or trade (Appendix II).
Here are some things it found:
- The United States and Canada accounted for 54% of global listings: US$2,094,750
- The U.S. and Canada bought $400,348 of endangered goods (87.5% of the total value)
- In the U.S. 73% of the advertising volume occurred on eBay. Of that figure, 99% was in elephant ivory.
- Some 98.8% of goods sold to Americans were from U.S.-based sellers
- In the six weeks, U.S. eBay advertised 3,667 ivory items and sold 1,847 of them for a total of $370,000
- IFAW estimates eBay earned $128,000 on $3.2 million in annual ivory sales through listing fees and commissions
What's weird is, eBay is usually pretty good about policing its listings. But these total animal listings are stunning. Last year it already banned the international sale of ivory, but IFAW still found plenty of it. If IFAW and I could find these listings, then surely someone from eBay could. Or how about the Fish and Wildlife Service? Aren't we paying them to do just that? Oh, yeah, their number of inspectors has been slashed to 210 from 238 in 2002. Meanwhile, since 2000 the amount of legal wildlife commerce has doubled.
I remember in the early days of eBay I once tried to skirt its rules to find an adoptive home for a stray kitten I took in. (I tried to sell cat kisses instead of a cat.) That auction was down and I was scolded within hours. If only it could put that kind of effort into stopping people who are, even if inadvertently, hurting animals.