New report examines link between auctions and elephant poaching

Image courtesy of IFAW

Image courtesy of IFAW

WASHINGTON – The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW ) today – World Elephant Day – published a new investigative report finding that the auction industry does not have the safeguards in place to protect elephants. “Although many in the industry claim not to be part of the problem driving the elephant poaching crisis, investigators found almost no data that would support this assertion,” the report said.

Titled “Bidding Against Survival: The Elephant Poaching Crisis and the Role of Auctions in the U.S. Ivory Market,” the report shows that only 1 of the 351 auctions investigated provided any documentation to authenticate the provenance, age, or legality of the ivory offered for sale.

Until this year, auction houses and other sellers have not been required to certify the ivory being sold,” said IFAW Campaigns Officer, Peter LaFontaine.”And although the vast majority of retailers may not intentionally traffic in poached ivory, there is no way to know if an ivory carving on the auction block is antique or chiselled from the tusk of an elephant recently killed by poachers.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service data indicate that individuals and businesses in the United States import and export a significant amount of legal and illegal ivory. The legal ivory market provides a screen under which a parallel illegal trade can thrive.

“We know from U.S. government reports that thousands of illegal pieces of ivory are smuggled into the United States every year; and we also know that auction houses are selling huge amounts of ivory without documentation,” added LaFontaine. “It would be naive not to consider that some of the smuggled contraband ends up on the auction block.”

IFAW’s three-month investigation into the auction industry focused on data obtained from from 340 auctions hosted by 223 auctioneers and galleries.

The U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service began drafting new regulations in February which, if finalized and implemented as proposed, would require ivory sellers to prove their wares are bona-fide antiques, therefore reducing the number of elephants poached today for US buyers.

“Among the many dealers and auction sites investigated, only one made the effort to verify that its ivory was antique,” said IFAW Campaigns Director Beth Allgood.”Traffickers are known to smuggle large quantities of illegal ivory into the United States every year, and we welcome strong rules proposed by the Fish & Wildlife Service to stop the US role in the elephant poaching crisis and save elephants from slaughter.”

Julian R. Ellison, CEO of LiveAuctioneers, read the IFAW report and said he found it “eye-opening and sobering.”

“LiveAuctioneers has always had a zero-tolerance policy toward the sale of illegal ivory. The Agreement our auction-house clients sign in order to use our services clearly states that they must not offer for sale through LiveAuctioneers any product of an animal species that is protected as endangered, or threatened, under applicable national or local laws. The IFAW report leads us to believe we have not gone far enough, so we are reaching out to the IFAW and asking that they help us educate auction houses who use LiveAuctioneers. Based on prior input we’ve received from auctioneers, they would welcome such guidance. They have no interest in selling illegal ivory or unwittingly contributing to the extinction of an endangered species.”

Bidding Against Survival is the only current report on the US ivory market that covers the auction sector. It can be viewed online at .

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Image courtesy of IFAW

Image courtesy of IFAW