London, Oct 22 : The global Internet auction site eBay has announced that from January 2009, it will ban the sale of ivory from all its 39 websites worldwide.
According to a report in New Scientist, the move was prompted by a report exposing the scale of potentially illegal Internet trade in wildlife products, especially ivory.
Although eBay introduced a ban in June 2007 on sales of ivory between countries, transactions involving ivory have continued, according to 'Killing with Keystrokes', a report by the Fund for Animal Welfare.
"The complex nature of regulations that govern ivory's sale globally means it is extremely difficult for us to distinguish between legitimate and illegal trade," said Richard Ambrose, head of trust and safety for eBay UK.
The ban was partly prompted by IFAW's three-month investigation into online trade in products from endangered species and live animals, acknowledges eBay spokeswoman Vanessa Canzini.
"IFAW congratulates eBay on this very important step to protect elephants," said IFAW campaigns manager Barbara Cartwright.
According to IFAW estimates, the global value of wildlife trade is 20 billion dollars annually.
IFAW tracked 7122 wildlife product listings on 183 websites in 11 countries. Of these, 63 percent were on eBay or affiliated sites.
The transactions had an advertised value of 3.8 million dollars, and sales of about 460,000 dollars on eBay provided the site with commission of at least 20,000 dollars.
The bulk of the trade was in ivory products, accounting for 73 percent of all the items tracked, although eBay disputes that all were illegal.
Although selling ivory was outlawed in 1989, under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), antique ivory - defined as pre-dating 1947 - can be traded.
However, Jeff Flocken, head of US policy at IFAW said that some sellers "openly say the ivory is fresh, and recently harvested".
According to Flocken, in one sale, a man posed with two full-size elephant tusks which eventually sold for 20,000 dollars.
Now, eBay has decided to simplify matters by banning all ivory sales except of items pre-dating 1900 and containing only small amounts of ivory, such as pianos with ivory keys.
"We knew the IFAW report was coming out, so it was a topical time for us to announce this," said Canzini. "We feel this is the best way to protect the endangered and protected species from which a significant portion of ivory products are derived," she added.
"eBay has set the standard for protecting elephants, now governments and other online dealers need to follow their example," said IFAW's Barbara Cartwright.