Together with our partners at TRAFFIC and WWF, IFAW released a new report Wednesday that establishes a “baseline” measurement of the US elephant ivory market. A baseline is important because it will help us gauge the effectiveness of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) near-total ban on ivory sales, which was finalized last July, along with state laws that have gone into effect over the last few years.
The study had two major components: The first was a “physical market survey” which covered storefront retailers and online classified advertisements in six major US cities—Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, San Francisco and Washington, DC—between May and July 2016. The second component was an online investigation, where we looked at elephant ivory sales on six prominent internet commerce platforms between June and August 2016. (We grouped the online classifieds in the first category because it was easy to see which cities they were being sold in).
One of our big takeaways from the physical market survey is that there appears to have been a marked decline in elephant ivory available for sale in New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, which were the top-three ivory markets in the US a decade ago: Back in 2006-2007, Care for the Wild International and Save the Elephants reported 16,758 ivory items in retail outlets in those three cities, while TRAFFIC’s investigators documented just 489 items when they made the rounds for this new survey. This is good news, and we suspect that it’s primarily due to stricter regulations and enforcement at the state and federal level.
Overall in the six cities, investigators found 1,589 elephant ivory items offered by 227 vendors. Washington, DC topped the list with 658 items for sale from 68 vendors. Online classifieds for elephant ivory mostly offered antique pianos with ivory keys.
Back in 2006 when the CWI/STE study came out, online shopping wasn’t the force it is now, so we surmised that some of those ivory sales had migrated from storefronts to the web. For this new survey, we monitored six major internet platforms—including auction sites and online marketplaces—and found a total of 2,056 elephant ivory items on offer from sellers based in 47 states, the top three being Florida (74 online vendors, 573 items), California (93 online vendors, 173 items) and New York (62 online vendors, 117 items).
“Ivory is coming off the shelves in the US, which is a win for elephants,” said Rachel Kramer, Senior Program Officer, TRAFFIC/WWF. “But as state and federal law enforcement crack down on illegal sellers, trade is apt to move online and into back rooms. Further investigations will be essential to learn who’s responsible for the trading, where the stocks are, and to deliver future seizures, arrests and prosecutions.”
Over the course of this research, our team kept the authorities posted on possible violations of the law, which has resulted in a number of active investigations. Our report also includes recommendations directed at US law enforcement agencies to improve regulation of the domestic ivory trade, and to US e-commerce companies and other retailers aimed at increasing knowledge and adherence to relevant state and federal legislation.
Elephants and other victims of illegal wildlife trade need all the help they can get from the retail and tech sectors. IFAW has been monitoring online sales of ivory since 2004, and we are glad to see more and more companies implementing policies to reduce illegal trade on the web. This survey shows that there’s still much work to be done (and future monitoring is vital), but the groundwork is in place for these efforts to bear fruit.
Article source: IFAW