IFAW: Kenya burns, but Britain still covets Ivory

(London – 19 July 2011) As Kenya prepares to send tons of ivory up in smoke tomorrow, a new investigation shows that in many European countries the bloody trade in elephant ivory continues apace.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org) says a survey of websites in the UK, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Germany, has found a thriving trade in ivory items – the legality of most of which is questionable. The bloody ivory trade on British websites shockingly shows that NONE of the ads either comply with website policy or provide evidence of legality. 59% of online ads for ivory were found to be in likely violation of legal requirements or the website policy, while 41% were possibly in violation.

“In just two weeks, our survey found more than 660 items with a total advertising value of almost €650,000.00 across a variety of European websites. A shocking 98 per cent of adverts failed to comply with website policies of providing evidence of legality,” said Kelvin Alie, Director of IFAW’s prevention of Illegal Wildlife Trade Programme.

Meanwhile to mark African Elephant Law Enforcement Day tomorrow, Kenya wildlife authorities will burn several tons of contraband ivory. The ivory was seized in Singapore in 2002 and DNA analysis of the 200 tusks has shown most of the ivory came from elephants poached in Zambia.

The burning of the ivory is being held under the auspices of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), which is supported by IFAW, an intergovernmental initiative by eight Eastern and Southern African countries, and which investigates illegal trade in fauna and flora.

“Europeans must realise that what they see as a pretty trinket for sale online is just one facet of an ongoing war against cruelty and for the protection of biodiversity. In Kenya, and across most African range states, elephants are ruthlessly slaughtered by poachers to fuel the illegal ivory trade,” said Alie.

“Any trade in ivory provides a cover for and encourages elephant poaching and illegal trade in ivory. The war on illegal ivory trade and elephant poaching can only be won by removing elephant ivory not just from international trade, but entirely from the global marketplace. If ivory had no commercial value, there would be little incentive for anyone to kill elephants for their tusks and one of the major threats to their survival would disappear,” he said.

Alie commented that investigations conducted by the LATF were key in enabling the 2002 Singapore ivory seizures and identifying the region of origin for most of the ivory as Zambia. He said the investigations highlighted the significance and need for close cooperation among enforcement agencies to combat elephant poaching and ivory trafficking in Africa.

“This is a tremendous victory for the LATF and the more countries that join and support the task force the more success we can have in the future,” Alie said.

IFAW’s investigation into the ivory trade on European websites tracked 43 websites in five countries and found 669 advertisements for ivory, with a total value of €649,688.90. France had the most active market for ivory with 262 advertisements found online. At €231,234.00 Spain had the highest overall monetary value of advertisements and was the most lucrative country for ivory peddlars with the 118 ivory advertisements having an average asking price just shy of €2,000.00 each. Germany has the least active online ivory market with 39 advertisements found across seven websites.

Aside from funding DNA research to catch wildlife smugglers, IFAW have spent years building capacity for wildlife law enforcement in Africa in a bid to bring poachers to justice before they have a chance to kill elephants for their tusks. IFAW provides equipment such as jeeps, radios, uniforms, binoculars and more to fight to protect elephants as well as training on techniques for evidence gathering, detecting smuggling methods, identifying smuggling routes and wildlife species identification.

“We can do everything possible to protect elephants in Africa but as long as markets for ivory exist elephants will continue to die to feed those markets. If we are to succeed, then it’s time managers and owners of online trading sites made a more serious effort to better regulate the way they allow the advertising and sale of ivory,” said Alie.

For more information on the ivory trade in Europe please contact IFAW.

Because the ivory offered for sale in the online advertisements surveyed was not handled directly it is impossible to be 100 per cent certain of its legality. For this reason ivory was placed in one of three categories:

– Likely Compliant: listings claiming legality (either under national or international law) and offering some form of supporting proof or documentation were classified as Likely Compliant so long as they were also in compliance with Web site policy. There was no further investigation into these claims, despite the ease with which documentation can be altered or counterfeited.

– Possible Violation: this category refers to advertisements that made a claim of legality (either under national or international law), but failed to provide any supporting proof or documentation and therefore had a greater potential for being in violation of law and/or Web site policy.

– Likely Violation: advertisements containing no reference at all to legality (either under national or international law) and/or clearly contravening Web site policy were classified as the most serious Likely Violations.

About the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)

Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.