Seized ivory that was crushed. Photo by: IFAW.
As it has become more difficult to buy illegal ivory from slaughtered elephants on places like eBay, Etsy, and Amazon.com, traders and buyers in the U.S. have turned to another venue: Craigslist. A new report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) finds that the ivory trade is thriving on Craigslist.
Looking at 28 geographic regions on Craigslist in the U.S. over 38 days of listings this year, investigators found 615 items from dead elephants, including ivory and elephant skin. They estimated this snapshot of trading was alone worth nearly $1.5 million. Extrapolating this data for a full year, the report estimates the trade in these 28 locations could yield as many as 6,600 items worth more than $15 million.
“This important investigation shows that ivory markets are still open and prevalent in the U.S.,” said John Calvelli, executive vice president for public affairs for WCS and the director of the 96 Elephants campaign, which seeks to raise awareness about the fact that around 96 elephants are killed everyday in Africa for their tusks. “We are hopeful that this report will shed light on the need to close domestic ivory markets.”
The organizations have already approached Craigslist with their finding and pushed the classified ads giant to change their policy to clearly prohibit ivory and parts from other endangered species.
“Craigslist’s decision to explicitly list ivory among the site’s prohibited items is a step in the right direction, but they must do more to actively enforce this policy and eliminate ivory sales from their site,” said Peter LaFontaine, campaigns officer with IFAW.
Recently experts estimated that 20,000 elephants were killed last year for their ivory, a number unchanged from the year before. The U.S. is generally considered the second largest market in the world for ivory after China. Last year, the Obama Administration closed legal loopholes in federal ivory laws and pledged to increase efforts to crackdown on the domestic trade through various agencies.
African elephants are currently listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, but the listing hasn’t been updated since 2008—right after the recent spate of elephant killings took off. Moreover, the listing doesn’t separate savannah elephants and forest elephants despite research arguing that these pachyderms are distinct species.