Despite eBay's self prohibition on elephant ivory sales, sellers changed the name of ivory or ivory products to hide people's eyes and ears. According to the investigation of legal experts, ivory items are often classified as "cow bones" BBC reporters bought three such items on eBay and tested them in an independent laboratory. Two of them were proved to be made of ivory. The analysis of ivory trade experts also shows that thousands of ivory products have been sold on the website since the company banned the sale of ivory products.
The survey was started by Dr. Caroline Cox of the University of Portsmouth in 2018. She and other ivory trade experts said that although the new ban on ivory sales in the UK came into effect on June 6, online trade continued.
It has been more than 10 years since eBay announced a global ban on the sale of ivory. The announcement at that time said that the global ban would "protect buyers and sellers, as well as animals in danger of extinction".
In 2018, Dr. Cox and her team conducted a three-month online research to track "beef bones" as a sales category on eBay UK website. The team tracked 632 beef bones sold on eBay UK; More than 500 of them were identified as ivory.
Dr. Cox explained that in this online forensic research, she was able to use the pictures and information in the list to provide clear evidence for buyers and investigators to prove what these items were actually made of.
"Ivory has a distinct creamy color," she explained. "And the list often mentions the weight of the items sold -- very accurate and specific -- because that is the standard to measure the value of ivory."
The obvious "Schreger line" is the growth line of ivory. It can be seen in the carved ivory. This is the case with the ivory recently sold on eBay.
"The key evidence is in the image of the object. The carved ivory has a clearly visible growth line, called the Schreger line. You can think of it as a tree ring, but for teeth and ivory." "These are unique to ivory," Dr. Cox said
Investigators and law enforcement officials have long used these visual technologies to identify illegal ivory, whether in the seizure of materials or in the investigation of online transactions.
In a statement in response to the BBC's findings, eBay said that it had been working to solve the illegal trade in elephant ivory for nearly a decade.
A spokesman responded in an email: "in the last two years, we have blocked or deleted more than 265000 lists prohibited under our animal products policy."
"Our positive approach means that illegal ivory sellers are forced to use obscure 'code words' [items ], and few, if any, of these items are sold because buyers cannot find them."
The ivory trade experts who started the survey pointed out that they tracked the ivory sales on eBay for 500 times in just three months in 2018 until they were completed. The same code or pseudonym, mainly "ox bone", is used repeatedly.
The laws on ivory trade vary from country to country. On Monday, Britain implemented what it called "one of the world's toughest bans on elephant ivory sales". From June 6, the trade in elephant teeth and ivory is illegal in Britain and can be fined up to 250000 pounds or imprisoned for up to five years.
EBay is not the only online platform used by wildlife traders. As early as 2017, when the media investigated the pet trade of endangered apes, it was found that these animals were being advertised on instagram to find buyers. These posts were later deleted by the company.