To Stem Thriving Online U.S. Ivory Market, Stronger Laws and Enforcement Needed, Says Author of New Report

Ivory vs Mouse report cover

In a new report, Elephant vs. Mouse, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) uncover a robust trade in ivory and related wildlife products on Craigslist, a classified advertising online platform. Craigslist is a massive site, with 50 billion page views and 80 million postings added each month.

IFAW and WCS surveyed postings from 28 cities over the course of five days in mid-March and found 615 elephant-related items, with a combined list price of $1.4 million. Over a full year, those 28 cities might therefore yield some 6,600 items, with a combined list price of more than $15 million.

The report doesn’t say that the postings are illegal, but because only 3.4 percent (21 out of 615 items) offered any documentation or proof of provenance, it suggests that the system needs some way to tell what’s legal from what’s illegal.

The sheer volume of trade exposed in this latest investigation of Craigslist is surprising, particularly as more states consider legislation to restrict commercial sales of elephant ivory and rhino horn.

In many states, such as Vermont where the House Committee on Fish, Wildlife and Natural Resources is scheduled to vote soon on bill H.297 to restrict ivory sales, legislators wonder about the size of the ivory market.

Quantifying the size of the United States ivory market is difficult. In 2008 Care for the Wild International and Save the Elephants found more than 24,000 items across 16 cities in its report on U.S. ivory markets and concluded the U.S. was “the second largest ivory retail market in the world after China/Hong Kong.”

Additional surveys of the online wildlife trade by IFAW—including Killing with Keystrokes (2008), Wanted Dead or Alive (2014), and Bidding Against Survival (2014)—also showed continued commerce.

This latest investigation into ivory on —> Read More