eBay joins calls for Australian ban on elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn sales


Tom McIlroy, Financial Review

Date Published
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Online auction giant eBay has joined calls for a complete ban on sales of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn in Australia, part of efforts to save endangered species and fight organised crime.

Members of a parliamentary committee are considering following a British ban on the sale and purchase of the products – believed to contribute to the deaths of as many as 20,000 elephants every year.

The committee has heard from auction houses, conservation and environmental groups about the illegal importation and trade of elephant ivory and rhino horn products in Australia, as well as law enforcement and border screening arrangements.

eBay’s government relations director for Australia, New Zealand, Japan and ASEAN, Kristen Foster, told Parliament’s joint committee on law enforcement the trading website had already banned the sale of any form of ivory.

‘Alarming decline in elephant populations’

“We are proactively doing what we can to protect native, endangered and threatened species. Plus we are also following laws, government regulations and international treaties on animals and wildlife,” Ms Foster said.

“eBay supports a ban on re-export of raw ivory and supports all steps taken to protect elephants and rhinoceroses.

“eBay takes the alarming decline in elephant populations throughout Africa very seriously and works closely with NGOs and law-enforcement agencies globally to fight international ivory trafficking.”

It is an offence in Australia to be in possession of elephant and rhinoceros products imported after an international convention agreed in 1975, with some products from before the date allowed to be traded with evidence of their provenance.

Tasmanian Labor senator Lisa Singh said all evidence so far was in favour of a full domestic ban.

Little effect on business

“We heard from one of the biggest auction houses in the country, Leonard Joel, who only last year implemented its own ban on buying and selling ivory and rhino horn,” she said.

“They were once probably the biggest seller of ivory and rhino horn in Australia, but they have now got a very ethical policy and they revealed that ban has had no commercial or resource impact on their business.”

Senator Singh said a domestic ban was unlikely to hit bottom lines for other businesses.

“While markets remain for these products, the allure to poach, slaughter and sell will continue,” she said.

“It’s pretty much an organised crime network, the same type that is associated with drugs and guns but evidence has revealed that the same sort of recognition of this trade in ivory and rhino horn as a serious crime is not being given by government and law enforcement.”

British ban

Fashion designer Collette Dinnigan is among the high-profile Australians backing a complete ban.

The British ban exempts items comprising less than 10 per cent ivory by volume and made before 1947, as well as musical instruments made before 1975 and comprising less than 20 per cent ivory products.

Rare or important items more than 100 years old can be specially assessed, and museums and other public institutions are subject to exemptions.