eBay takes the hint on Saving Elephants  

The online auction house eBay Inc. said it will ban
cross-border trade of ivory products, following a study by a
wildlife group that found nine out of 10 of the items sold on
the Internet are probably illegal. The company also will
alert traders on its Web site that they may need to prove
they are legally allowed to sell their ivory products,
spokeswoman Nicola Sharpe said, speaking from San Jose.

The first report of the ban came at a conference in Hague
where regulation of the ivory trade is high on the agenda
of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species, or CITES.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare, the
British-based wildlife group that negotiated the ban with
eBay, said the announcement should send a signal to the
171-nation CITES to tighten the trade regime to further
protect elephants from poaching. The ban would apply
only to international trade, and not to sales within a
country's borders, Sharpe said.

Laws on domestic ivory sales differ from country to
country." The Internet is a huge challenge," said Claudia
McMurray, the U.S. Assistant secretary of state for
environment issues, acknowledging that the United States
has a big market for illegal ivory.

While applauding the decision, McMurray said, "You still
have to identify the buyer and the seller, and ascertain
whether it's elephant ivory and legal." The United States
was prepared to prosecute illegal traders, but "in
cyberspace you don't know who you are dealing with," she
told The Associated Press. The U.S. government has
worked closely with eBay in the past, and it has been "very
good at understanding how they can ferret out illegal
behavior."

In a statement, eBay said the ban was intended to give
"confidence to those people who want to buy legitimate
and legal ivory items." Peter Prueschel, of the animal
welfare group, said it was difficult to distinguish between
domestic and international trades on eBay.

"That's why we tell them that sooner or later they will have
to ban ivory entirely," he said. Prueschel said eBay in
Germany, which displayed an average 400 ivory items a
day on its site, banned all ivory sales in March 2006. Since
then, traffic has plunged 98 percent.

Only ivory that predates the 1975 CITES treaty or ivory
from National stocks can legally be traded across national
borders. Some items mistaken or mislabeled as ivory
actually come from walrus or mammoth tusks - increasingly
available as the Russian and Alaskan tundra melt due to
global warming.

In its study, the animal welfare group said it found 2,275
ivory pieces offered for sale on the Internet in seven
countries during a randomly chosen week in February, and
that 94 percent lacked any mention of certification and
probably were illegal.

The report coincided with another study by Care for the
Wild International that identified the United States as one
of the world's leading markets for illegal ivory. That report's
author, Esmond Martin, said he found more than 23,000
items of ivory in a survey of 15 U.S. cities. In some cities,
half the items were illegally imported, and bore the
hallmarks of production in China. He said increasingly the
ivory trade was migrating from retail stores to the Internet,
which is not regulated by federal or state law.

                                                                                     ET - June 7th 2007
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