Ivory Is Still Sold on eBay, Even Though It’s Illegal
In 2008, eBay conducted the vast majority of online trade in endangered animals, the New York Times reported. After intense pressure from conservationists over elephant poaching, the popular online shopping site banned selling ivory via its Animal and Wildlife Products policy, Yale Environment 360 reported.
However, illegal goods are still being trafficked on the website today through vague or mislabeled listings, researchers from the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent found. Code words like "bone" are used as a cover description to disguise and misrepresent illegal listings as non-restricted materials, the study noted. Also complicating enforcement is the fact that "ivory" can be used to describe the color of any product, making enforcement searches using the word unproductive, CNN reported.
Study co-author David Roberts is well versed in the illicit ivory trade. He previously developed an algorithm identifying illegal elephant ivory on eBay with a 93 percent accuracy, studied the behaviors of ivory sellers on the online platform and examined the use of code words across four European Union countries.
In his most recent research, published in the journal Tropical Conservation Science, Roberts and his team investigated the discrepancy between how vendors described the objects in their listings versus what the study's authors identified as the actual materials, which they achieved by studying the images provided in the listings.
The researchers focused on listings for netsuke, carved objects attached to the cord of Japanese kimonos, which are offered on eBay UK, a University of Kent statement said. Netsuke are often made of ivory, and the researchers found that authentic elephant ivory was most frequently — and misleadingly — described as bone in netsuke listings, the statement said.
The authors identified mislabeled ivory by looking for Schreger lines in netsuke listing images, Roberts told EcoWatch. Schreger lines are a unique overlapping pattern found in elephant ivory. This pattern allowed them to identify authentic ivory without having to obtain the physical items for analysis, which would be ethically undesirable, the Kent statement said.
According to Keith Somerville, a professor at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and author of "Ivory: Power and Poaching in Africa," certain elephant populations around the world are being hunted for their tusks. Globally, the world's largest land animal has also suffered due to habitat loss, poaching and confrontation with humans.
"Illegal ivory trade is a major threat," Somerville emphasized. There is no accurate estimate for how many animals are killed each year for ivory because "it is all underground." Somerville estimated that as many as 20,000 elephants might be killed annually for the black market.
"They have to kill the elephant. No other way to remove the ivory. They are shot or poisoned and the tusks hacked out," he told EcoWatch.
In late 2019, an eBay trader was jailed after being repeatedly caught selling ivory on the site, Lincolnshire Live reported. The trader shipped ivory products mislabeled as jewelry and wood carvings. During sentencing, the presiding judge said, "Without an illegal ivory market there would be no need for the capture of elephants in the wild. That market feeds the destruction of elephants," reported Lincolnshire Live.
In addition to ivory, Roberts' team also saw "all sorts of illegal wildlife or wildlife that violates their terms and conditions for sale on sites such as eBay, including a case of rhino horn, traditional Asian medicines, rare orchids and cacti, exotic skins, [and] shells to name a few," Roberts told EcoWatch. While ivory buyers and sellers use code words and disguise their trade with closed group communications, trade in "less charismatic species happens out in the open with no code words" on these websites, Roberts warned.
An eBay spokesperson told CNN that the company is a founding member of the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online and works with the World Wildlife Fund and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
"We have global teams dedicated to upholding standards on our marketplace, and over a recent two-year period we blocked or removed over 265,000 listings prohibited under our animal products policy," the spokesperson told CNN.
Still, Roberts and fellow researchers returned to eBay a month after their initial search and found that only 1.3 to 6.9 percent of genuine ivory netsuke listings had been removed by eBay. More than half were already sold, and half of the unsold items were re-listed.
"If eBay was effectively enforcing its policy... on ivory, these items would have been removed," CNN reported the researchers saying.
eBay is not the only commerce service facilitating online wildlife trafficking, but it is a major site on which ivory can be found relatively easily, Roberts told EcoWatch. "While detecting illegal sales of ivory items can be particularly difficult, companies like eBay have the resources and data that could be mobilized to tackle the challenge of illegal wildlife trade," Roberts said in the Kent statement.
He suggested tackling the illegal wildlife trade online by making items more difficult to find, removing illegal listings and enforcing existing bans. Ultimately, Roberts called upon eBay and other technology companies to help develop algorithms for automating illegal product identification, he told EcoWatch. He also advocated for better reporting mechanisms that result in illegal listings actually being removed.
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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