iNews

Cahal Milmo, iNews
January 21, 2018

Illegal ivory is being openly traded on internet auction and social media
sites in Britain as criminals ?launder? poached elephant tusk products by
selling online, conservation experts have warned.

Dozens of items carved from elephant tusks are being offered for sale
online on a daily basis by sellers based in countries including Britain as
organised crime gangs target the remaining markets where ivory can still be
sold legally as antique.

Smokescreen

The introduction by China this month of a complete ban on all ivory sales
has increased pressure on Britain and other EU countries to bring in their
own blanket prohibition to prevent existing legitimate commercial trade
being used as a smokescreen for poached ivory. The Government has said it
expects to bring forward such a ban later this year.

Researchers have found evidence that in the meantime the illegal trade , 
part of a global illicit wildlife trade worth up to $26.5bn (?19.6bn) ? is
flourishing. More than 20,000 elephants a year are still being slaughtered
by poachers in Africa. A study by the University of Kent found that barely
any ivory or other illegal wildlife products are being sold via the
so-called darknet, where there is a flourishing criminal market in drugs
and firearms.

Auction Sites

Instead, the researchers found that ivory is being sold openly on
conventional auction sites, including eBay. Traders are exploiting complex
rules which are meant to restrict the trade in Britain to pre-1947
?antiques? but can act as a cover for the sale of items fashioned from
poached elephant tusks.

Despite perfecting a prototype software system which can pinpoint
potentially illegal ivory with 93 per cent accuracy, the University of Kent
team have been told by law enforcement agencies and wildlife protection
groups that they cannot afford to fund its deployment on the frontline.

As a result, campaigners and researchers have warned that sellers of
illegal ivory are trading with a worrying degree of impunity on the
?surface? web, often by misdescribing recent ivory as antique. In some
cases, sellers have been found trying to sell ?raw? or whole elephant tusks.

?Impunity?

Dr David Roberts, a conservation scientist at the University of Kent and
co-author of the study into illegally traded wildlife, said: ?The surface
web is being used by criminals because they have found they can trade there
for the most part with impunity. Unlike those selling drugs or guns, they
don?t feel they have to move to the darknet. ?What is frustrating is that
tackling this online trade does not seem to be priority. It falls between
boots-on-the-ground enforcement against poaching in Africa and reduction of
demand in south east Asia. We have had enforcement agencies and campaign
groups say they would like to have our software as an enforcement tool but
they don?t have the funding to progress it further.?

Rather than blatantly advertising items as ?elephant ivory?, online traders
use alternative keywords recognised by buyers, at least some of whom are
likely to know that they may be purchasing illicit items.

Keywords

Using these keywords the i was able to find four potentially illegal
elephant ivory figures for sale on eBay, which has a policy of not allowing
the sale of any elephant ivory products. Three of the items, which experts
confirmed were genuine ivory, were being offered by UK-based sellers while
another was being sold in the United States, which last year brought in its
own blanket ban on all ivory sales. The i has agreed not to disclose the
search terms used by the ivory sellers.

The trade highlights the difficulty in distinguishing between legal antique
ivory and products which are advertised as antique but are in reality
recent poached ivory. The only reliable method of telling the age of ivory
? carbon dating ? costs around ?400 per test.

EBay has been one of the leading advocates of a complete ban on commercial
ivory sales in the EU and has trained staff in how to pinpoint items. The
company said it last year removed more than 25,000 listings for illegal
wildlife goods after working with conservation body the International Fund
for Animal Welfare.

In a statement, eBay said: ?We work with conservation groups including IFAW
and go beyond legal requirements to restrict the sale of ivory products on
our marketplace. The eBay Trust and Safety Team scour the site each day to
take action on any items of concern, for example when an item is listed
maliciously.?

Poachers and Traffickers

Conservationists warn that Britain and EU countries find themselves as
potential conduits for illegal ivory because they are currently the largest
exporters of legal ivory products. A total of 2,242 elephant tusks and more
than 44,000 ivory products were legally exported from the EU in the decade
to 2015 and Britain, which granted licences for 36,000 items between 2010
and 2015, is by far the largest supplier.

Will Travers, co-founder of the Born Free wildlife charity, said: ?The
presence of this large legal trade in ivory products to, within and from
the EU stimulates global demand and provides poachers and traffickers with
a mechanism by which illegal ivory from recently-killed elephants can be
laundered into the trade.?

Britain is due to host an international conference in October on measures
to curb the illegal wildlife trade.

Why is Britain the world?s biggest exporter of legal ivory?

Britain?s colonial history helps to put it in an unique ? and increasingly
unenviable ? position as the world?s largest exporter of legal ivory.

Hundreds of thousands of items brought into Britain during the days of
empire, and then throughout the post-war period due to close links with
former colonies in Africa and Asia, mean the UK is awash with ivory often
described by sellers as ?antique?.

The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) revealed last
year that Britain issued export licences for more than 36,000 legal ivory
items between 2010 and 2015. The figure is more than three times that of
next largest exporter, the United States (9,824).

Britain was also by the far largest exporter to the China and Hong Kong
with 13,056 items destined to the two countries, which until they announced
their own bans on all ivory trade were also among the biggest destinations
for illegal poached ivory. The bans in the Far East (China introduced its
prohibition this month and Hong Kong, home to the world?s largest ivory
retail market, is due to follow by 2022) leave Britain and other European
countries in the position of being the only remaining sizable traders to
still allow a commercial ivory trade.

Mary Rice, EIA executive director, said: ?As well as fuelling demand for
ivory, the UK?s legal trade provides opportunities for the laundering of
illegal ivory, both within the country and internationally.? Britain is
expected to announce its own ban on commercial ivory trade, subject to a
small number of exceptions, later this year.

https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/revealed-illegal-ivory-openly-traded-britain-auction-social-media-sites-pressure-grows-total-sales-ban/

————————————-
This news service is provided by Save the Elephants.
January 21, 2018

See link
<https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/revealed-illegal-ivory-openly-traded-britain-auction-social-media-sites-pressure-grows-total-sales-ban/>
for photos.

Illegal ivory is being openly traded on internet auction and social media
sites in Britain as criminals ?launder? poached elephant tusk products by
selling online, conservation experts have warned.

Dozens of items carved from elephant tusks are being offered for sale
online on a daily basis by sellers based in countries including Britain as
organised crime gangs target the remaining markets where ivory can still be
sold legally as antique.

Smokescreen

The introduction by China this month of a complete ban on all ivory sales
has increased pressure on Britain and other EU countries to bring in their
own blanket prohibition to prevent existing legitimate commercial trade
being used as a smokescreen for poached ivory. The Government has said it
expects to bring forward such a ban later this year.

Researchers have found evidence that in the meantime the illegal trade ?
part of a global illicit wildlife trade worth up to $26.5bn (?19.6bn) ? is
flourishing. More than 20,000 elephants a year are still being slaughtered
by poachers in Africa. A study by the University of Kent found that barely
any ivory or other illegal wildlife products are being sold via the
so-called darknet, where there is a flourishing criminal market in drugs
and firearms.

Auction Sites

Instead, the researchers found that ivory is being sold openly on
conventional auction sites, including eBay. Traders are exploiting complex
rules which are meant to restrict the trade in Britain to pre-1947
?antiques? but can act as a cover for the sale of items fashioned from
poached elephant tusks.

Despite perfecting a prototype software system which can pinpoint
potentially illegal ivory with 93 per cent accuracy, the University of Kent
team have been told by law enforcement agencies and wildlife protection
groups that they cannot afford to fund its deployment on the frontline.

As a result, campaigners and researchers have warned that sellers of
illegal ivory are trading with a worrying degree of impunity on the
?surface? web, often by misdescribing recent ivory as antique. In some
cases, sellers have been found trying to sell ?raw? or whole elephant tusks.

?Impunity?

Dr David Roberts, a conservation scientist at the University of Kent and
co-author of the study into illegally traded wildlife, said: ?The surface
web is being used by criminals because they have found they can trade there
for the most part with impunity. Unlike those selling drugs or guns, they
don?t feel they have to move to the darknet. ?What is frustrating is that
tackling this online trade does not seem to be priority. It falls between
boots-on-the-ground enforcement against poaching in Africa and reduction of
demand in south east Asia. We have had enforcement agencies and campaign
groups say they would like to have our software as an enforcement tool but
they don?t have the funding to progress it further.?

Rather than blatantly advertising items as ?elephant ivory?, online traders
use alternative keywords recognised by buyers, at least some of whom are
likely to know that they may be purchasing illicit items.

Keywords

Using these keywords the i was able to find four potentially illegal
elephant ivory figures for sale on eBay, which has a policy of not allowing
the sale of any elephant ivory products. Three of the items, which experts
confirmed were genuine ivory, were being offered by UK-based sellers while
another was being sold in the United States, which last year brought in its
own blanket ban on all ivory sales. The i has agreed not to disclose the
search terms used by the ivory sellers.

The trade highlights the difficulty in distinguishing between legal antique
ivory and products which are advertised as antique but are in reality
recent poached ivory. The only reliable method of telling the age of ivory
? carbon dating ? costs around ?400 per test.

EBay has been one of the leading advocates of a complete ban on commercial
ivory sales in the EU and has trained staff in how to pinpoint items. The
company said it last year removed more than 25,000 listings for illegal
wildlife goods after working with conservation body the International Fund
for Animal Welfare.

In a statement, eBay said: ?We work with conservation groups including IFAW
and go beyond legal requirements to restrict the sale of ivory products on
our marketplace. The eBay Trust and Safety Team scour the site each day to
take action on any items of concern, for example when an item is listed
maliciously.?

Poachers and Traffickers

Conservationists warn that Britain and EU countries find themselves as
potential conduits for illegal ivory because they are currently the largest
exporters of legal ivory products. A total of 2,242 elephant tusks and more
than 44,000 ivory products were legally exported from the EU in the decade
to 2015 and Britain, which granted licences for 36,000 items between 2010
and 2015, is by far the largest supplier.

Will Travers, co-founder of the Born Free wildlife charity, said: ?The
presence of this large legal trade in ivory products to, within and from
the EU stimulates global demand and provides poachers and traffickers with
a mechanism by which illegal ivory from recently-killed elephants can be
laundered into the trade.?

Britain is due to host an international conference in October on measures
to curb the illegal wildlife trade.

Why is Britain the world?s biggest exporter of legal ivory?

Britain?s colonial history helps to put it in an unique ? and increasingly
unenviable ? position as the world?s largest exporter of legal ivory.

Hundreds of thousands of items brought into Britain during the days of
empire, and then throughout the post-war period due to close links with
former colonies in Africa and Asia, mean the UK is awash with ivory often
described by sellers as ?antique?.

The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) revealed last
year that Britain issued export licences for more than 36,000 legal ivory
items between 2010 and 2015. The figure is more than three times that of
next largest exporter, the United States (9,824).

Britain was also by the far largest exporter to the China and Hong Kong
with 13,056 items destined to the two countries, which until they announced
their own bans on all ivory trade were also among the biggest destinations
for illegal poached ivory. The bans in the Far East (China introduced its
prohibition this month and Hong Kong, home to the world?s largest ivory
retail market, is due to follow by 2022) leave Britain and other European
countries in the position of being the only remaining sizable traders to
still allow a commercial ivory trade.

Mary Rice, EIA executive director, said: ?As well as fuelling demand for
ivory, the UK?s legal trade provides opportunities for the laundering of
illegal ivory, both within the country and internationally.? Britain is
expected to announce its own ban on commercial ivory trade, subject to a
small number of exceptions, later this year.

https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/revealed-illegal-ivory-openly-traded-britain-auction-social-media-sites-pressure-grows-total-sales-ban/

————————————-
This news service is provided by Save the Elephants.